Daddy Dearest

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My father’s widow — his second wife — sent me a photo of my father in the mail today. And a copy of the program from his memorial service. I didn’t feel much of anything when I looked at it. Aside from these slight pangs of melancholy. And this sense of incompleteness. So much of my life is dogged by this sense of incompleteness. Like things never developed fully. Everything always ends up short of the mark some how. A half-assed try. Never reaching fruition. Always something missing. Like it should have added up to something more than it was.

And it all happened so quickly. He was 86 and pretty much like he’d always been. I had gotten a letter from him just the month before. “Nothing new to report here. Same old blah blah blah.” Then I get an email from my brother. “The doctors say he has cancer. And at his age there’s nothing they can do about it. They say he could live for another two years.” And then in two weeks he was dead.

I never had any kind of relationship with him as an adult. In the 45 years since I left his home at age 17 he was mostly just a blank spot in my life. There were long periods where I actively disliked him. And long periods were I was mostly just indifferent towards him. And brief periods where I felt something akin to affection, admiration, and respect towards him. But mostly I didn’t think about him at all.

And now I’m mostly just left with with this feeling of incompleteness. Like something is missing. Something lacking. Something that slipped through my fingers. That you can never get back.

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Some random thoughts for Father’s Day

 

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Like a lot of people, I have complicated feelings about my Father. And when I try to describe those feelings, it’s like a FLOOD of feelings. An over-load of emotion. Like a radio that’s picking up 10 stations at the same time. And all you can hear is static.

My Father’s parents were Italian peasants from Sicily who immigrated to America in the 1920s. Barely spoke English. Owned a little home in Passaic, New Jersey. Every now and then when I was a child we would visit them. My Grandparents. They always seemed like they were sluggish or in a stupor. I don’t remember them ever saying a word to me. And everything in their house seemed old and covered with dust.

Both of my Dad’s two brothers (older than him) saw some of the worst fighting in World War II. I was always struck by the irony of that. My family coming to America for a better life. Only to be shipped back to Europe to be ruined. They spent most of their lives in mental institutions. And my father would always watch over them through all the years, acting as their caretaker, to make sure they were doing all right

My Father was probably the first person in my family to graduate from college. Went to New York City to be a commercial artist. Worked in advertising for awhile. Realized it was a soul-less occupation. Took a stab at developing a comic strip. Finally opted for a career as a Methodist minister. Had his own churches where he preached every Sunday for 30 years.

I was enormously critical of him for many years for his various human foibles. He was a very nice guy, always meant well, deeply cared about people in his own way. He was a “hail fellow well met” type (think Ed McMahon). Always happy to meet you and greet you. But he was  flawed in other ways.

But I respect that he came from nowhere — this sort of Italian peasant stock with a strong strain of mental insanity to it that was our family tree. And pulled himself up. And developed elevated interests in art and literature and religion and etc. And made a life for himself.

Plus. He created me. So I suppose I should be grateful to him. The bastard.

He’s around 85 now and still hanging in there.

Happy Father’s Day everybody!!

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