Happy Father's Day to all you Dad's out there! This is my 14th Father's Day without my Dad. But it doesn't take a national holiday to remind me of him. I just have to look at marigolds, peonies or roses and think of him. Or fresh tomatoes off the vine. Or hear a Dean Martin song playing - now that can bring tears to my eyes. My Dad looked like Dean Martin in his younger years.
As he got older, he loved to swing on the glider on the back porch singing in Italian.
Dad was a carpenter for 40 years. He could make or fix anything. The basement was his domain. All of us thought it was a total mess, yet he knew exactly where everything was, and could find it immediately. Let's say, for instance, you broke the buckle off your belt? He'd go downstairs and within a few minutes, come up with a dilapidated old belt, but by golly, that buckle would nicely replace the broken one. Whenever he worked on one of his wooden projects, and turn on his saws,
it would create such a loud noise, we couldn't watch TV because of the lines of interference running across the screen, and the lights all over the house would dim until he turned the saw off. It would drive my mother crazy, but us kids thought it was funny.
On Saturday mornings we'd have fried eggs for breakfast. Dad was such a slow eater, and his eggs always looked so good. Even though I had already eaten, I'd stand there next to the table and he'd break off a little piece of bread, dip it in the yummy yellow yolk, and hand it to me. I loved when Dad made "white" gravy. It's made from bacon grease, flour, and milk. It's similar to the sausage and gray mixture you see in restaurants, but it has the bacon flavor. It was a special treat when Dad made his gravy for breakfast.
One thing I miss most about my Dad is his hands. He had large hands for a man of his stature - he only stood about 5'8" - but his fingers were long and thick. If I (or any of my five sibling) was sick and had stayed home from school, he'd come home from work, set his lunch box on the counter, walk into the living room where I was lying on the couch, and put his cool hand on my face. Dad wasn't one to verbally express his love, but that touch meant the world to me.
Dad was one of the smartest people I knew. He only attended school up to 6th grade; yet he was so good in math and could figure anything out. Being a carpenter was hard work - he'd travel from job to job. Living in the suburbs of Chicago, the winters were often brutal; so many times my Dad was unemployed during the winter months. How we survived - a family of 8 - is amazing. Yet I don't remember going "without" - we were just like everyone else in the neighborhood.
Dad loved to work in his garden and flowerbeds. He planted marigolds in the flowerbeds in the front yard, and along the side fence in the backyard. Then, when the flowers died, he'd pull the seeds out of the dead blooms and save them in a brown paper bag to plant for next season. I'd sit next to Dad, side-by-side, quietly pulling the seeds out. His roses were another source of pride. The one bush grew over 5 feet tall and had so many flowers on them. Our peonies ran along our back fence and would bloom every year around Memorial Day weekend.
One time, after I was married, my sister and I went over to our parents house. We loved to sit on the back porch with Mom and talk and swing on the glider. My sister's baby was under a year old at the time. My Dad had made a wooden baby swing and hung it from a "T" shaped pipe with hooks on it for the clothes line.
We put Ryan in the swing, but we got tired of pushing him. One of us (I honestly can't remember who - but I'm leaning towards ME) thought of tying a rope to the baby swing, leading it up to the back porch (about 20 feet away) and while we rocked on the glider, we'd also be rocking Ryan at the same time. Well, you know how women are - we got to talking, laughing, etc., and forgot all about the baby! We kept pulling the rope, mind you. All of a sudden Dad came outside, looked at Ryan and yelled, "Jesus Christ! Look at the baby!" and ran down the stairs. Ryan had fallen forward (he was very big for his age - really) and was dragging his hands in the dirt - back and forth, back and forth as we pulled the rope. He was sound asleep! OMG - we were mortified! Of course we laughed our butts off, too! Dad comes in and saves the day!
Dad lost his life to cancer 6 months shy of his 80th birthday. He lived a long, happy life. He loved my mom and us kids. Although he is gone, I have such rich memories to keep him close to my heart. And I hope that he and Dean are singing a duet together up in heaven, serenading Mom.