As I ponder my life at 53, almost 54, and how much has changed in my faith, my thoughts, my direction on the eve of this Father’s Day, I need to address my dad’s influence on me.
But, it may not be in the gooey, typical Father’s Day tribute you will see posted everywhere. YAWN.
For the Italian American community, and sometimes beyond, my dad was, as I am finding, a beloved icon.
My Iast name is not a common one, and a dead ringer I might be related. Sometimes I see how excited someone gets when they put the pieces together, recite commercials from the 70’s and 80s that I can too recite ad nausem and were just a part of my every day existence.
As a kid, I just knew my father as dad. I could not understand the applause. I just knew the guy who lunched at Valentino’s, smoked a pack of Marlboros a day, drove the same car ten years in a row (and of course the Ferrari), only drank Chianti or a Beefeater Martini up with a twist or two, and always came home to his family.
He would inevitably fall asleep on the couch watching 60 Minutes or Gunsmoke. He snored so loud because he was minus his adenoids since he was like ten, and my mom couldn’t take much of that and bought every snore trapper device she could find.
He worked tirelessly and passionately until he entered hospice at 76, and as I go through a divorce, I am proud and excited to go back to my maiden name.
It’s not about the celebrity, it’s about the man.
The man who, set the bar so high, I couldn’t find a real man representative of what a man should be.
My father was the most committed individual to anything he embarked on.
He never left a project unfinished, or slept in until 11 a.m. There was work to be done, money to be made, and a family to provide for.
Even during the not so wealthy days, as an immigration attorney, he always knew there was more. Make it better. Make it the best. Be a good person, with honor, integrity and care. Treat everyone as if they were paying your bills. Remember your employees are part of your success, and your front line. Love them until the death. (and he did). Be loyal. Love your wife like she is the last woman on earth. Provide for your kids even when they become adults. Then, provide for your grandchildren.
Legacy. Lineage. Roots.
He never forgot any of them.
If he were alive, I would probably tell him I find him single handedly responsible for my failed relationships. I’m sure he would laugh and then ask how the hell this could be.
And, I would tell him:
Dad, I thought everyone was you.
I thought every man was you.
I thought men were inherently good, honorable and faithful.
I thought any man knew his role, knew how to love, knew how to treat a woman, his wife.
I thought every man would work like a dog, provide for his family and never rest until he achieved his goal, and still never stop.
I thought every man would be selfless, egoless and upstanding beyond.
I thought every man was honest and knew how to love.
It’s all I knew, dad, and I thought they would all be you.
So, as I venture into my almost mid 50s, embarking on a new life, I will look for my dad in an incredibly special man who gets it. He needs to be very Catholic, compatible with my faith, and if you are not Italian…need not apply.
It’s not about money. It’s not about wealth. It’s about understanding what love is, the sacrifice it takes, the calling it is, the unwearying desire and devotion to your better half, and your family. It’s about not wanting to hurt someone to vault your own ego, but about forgetting the ego to boost someone else’s. It’s about caring so much for others that you die with nothing to check off, and hopefully no regrets.
It’s about loving the way a man should…without boundaries, without limitations and never, ever worrying about what the rest of the world thinks.
Dad, you set the bar way too high for an average man.
Mostly because you don’t know what average is.