IAnyone Who Knew My Dad
Anyone who Knew My Dad, knew that one of his famous sayings was…
“Impara arte e mettele aparte”. My Dad told us that at a very young age. And he truly lived by that. For those that don’t know Italian it means: learn things, learn lots of things and file the learnings away – someday you may need it. And that is what my dad did.
Anyone who knew my Dad, knew that he could do just about anything.
Construction, electrical, plumbing, tile setting, terrazzo, mosaic, woodworking, toy-making, master gardening – how he loved his flowers and planting radicchio, tomatoes, and beans, a dog lover and trainer – Little Cocoa never, ever went anywhere without my dad, a painter (look out Bob Ross!), you name it, my dad could do it. Except for maybe 1 thing – fix a pulverized flower pot my mom accidently ran over while backing out of my in-laws driveway the very first time they met. I remember my mom nervously calling up Sue to apologize promising “my husband can fix it – he can fix anything!” but that flower pot, unfortunately, was a lost cause!
Anyone who knew my Dad, knew he never stood still,
and was always ready to try learning anything. He had a hunger for learning to do things with his hands. “Mani d’oro” -- Hands of gold. No-one knew this better than me. I always had a project for him (Whether he liked it or not!). Sometimes it was fixing something, sometimes it was building something I wanted or saw at a craft fair for like a gazillion dollars. Too cheap to buy it, I’d ask him to copy it and make it for me. And his end product invariably ended up exponentially better than the original. Which brings me to the next point:
Anyone who knew my Dad, knew that he was a bit of a perfectionist.
My Dad never settled for “okay”. Just like Goldilocks, things had to be ‘just right’. The right materials, the right tools, the right planning. And when he had his mind on something – look out, no distractions. Just ask my husband Ric. Thirty-two years ago Ric had the unfortunate timing of asking my dad for my hand in marriage when he was working on the roof. Try as he may, he couldn’t get my dad to stand still so he could attempt to make the request in Italian. Poor Ric ended up on the ladder, on the roof, precariously following my dad around and handing him various tools. Finally, after some initial confusion (to this day I think he still actually asked my dad for HIS hand in marriage, instead of mine) the deed was done. Which brings me to my next point:
Anyone who knew my Dad, knew that English was not his first language
My Dad came to this country at the age of 32 to make a better life for himself. He met and fell in love with my mom here. (despite the awful gags she and her friends played on him… like the cup with hidden holes that made him dribble water all over himself when he used it). My dad wanted to be American, to fit in, to speak English… right down to our names: I ask you, really, what kind of Italian names his daughter “Karen”??? or Laurie?? ugh! The best was when he sometimes got words just a little bit mixed up. Like the time he had an ‘overhang’ from drinking too much of his homemade 120 proof grappa. Or the time we were shooting bow and arrows in the backyard and he got an “eyebull”! Or when he learned a new word and asked: “Ma cosa e questa parola “awesome” -- What is this word “awesome”?? Once we explained what that word meant, to him, everything was just “awesome”, which brings me to my next point.
Anyone who knew my Dad, knew he just thought music was “awesome”
My Dad was a bit of a musician, an accordion player. He studied music in Italy and brought his love of music with him here. He was thrilled when Ricardo took up the mandolin. No holiday or Sunday dinner at our house was complete without my dad, my father-in-law, and Ricardo jamming together. There was the accordion, the mandolin, the keyboard and even sometimes the “spoons” thrown in for good measure. They were the premier entertainment during our annual family New Year’s Eve party, playing for an audience of close to 50 family and friends. And if he was on the other side, attending a function, he and my mom would dance every dance – polkas, mazurka’s, waltz’s – the two of them gliding around the dance-floor as one. My sister and I have fond memories of dancing with our dad at an early age, spinning around the floor and getting a bit dizzy in the process. Which brings me to my next point:
Anyone who knew my Dad, knew he was a bit of a jokester and liked to have fun.
Although you may think my dad was on the quiet side, he loved to laugh and have fun. Ask any waitress on the breakfast shift where he would, just like clockwork and with a very serious face, explain to the waitress that he was left-handed (which he was not), and ask her for a left-handed coffee cup. You can’t believe the look of bewilderment on some of their faces.
Or the time the kids bought him an “extend-a-spoon” at the gag shop in Bethany Beach so that he could more readily reach mom’s ice cream and snatch a spoonful when she wasn’t looking….. Which brings me to my next point
Anyone who knew my Dad, knew that he enjoyed food –
Traditional favorites like my mom’s polenta and stew, my sister’s gnocchi or my mother-in-laws venison. But he also was always game to try new food like Korean or Thai. And look out if there was whipped cream anywhere near him. Or sour cream and onion potato chips – right Sandro? To my dad, If he was able to have a simple meal surrounded by family, the day was a success….. Which brings me to my next point.
Anyone who knew my Dad, knew my father was a success
As I mentioned, he grew up in Italy. His early years there were tough. He never met his father, and his step-father died soon after marrying my grandmother. He and his paraplegic brother (Zio Nani) and step-siblings lived with their twice-widowed mother through WWII in very humble surroundings, scraping to make ends meet. But he persevered. He came to this country, married my mother, and created a family, a life here, while continuing to support his mother and brother in Italy. He supported, loved, and cared for my mom, my sister and I, and gave us a strong foundation and opportunity for a wonderful life. He was a treasured husband, father, uncle, nonno, and bis-nonno. He loved all of us and loved watching the family grow with my wonderful husband Ric, his brother Dan and parents Sue and Frank, and then with his grandsons Ricky and Sandro, and great grandson Jackson. He appreciated and valued his family and good friends. He was truly awesome!
Dad lived a good life, never ever complaining, even with the suffering. It was so good to see him laugh, especially when his fight was coming to an end. His whole face would light up when you cracked a joke, and he appreciated the visits, the caring. And we gratefully thank you for that.
In the end, he was surrounded by us all and passed knowing that he was loved.
I’ll close in the immortal words of my father-in-law that always made my dad crack-up…. “Sta te good Aldo”…. Sta te good daddy…
I love you…