Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Happy Birthday Pa!





















































































































Someone had a birthday yesterday. Yep it was pa. He turned sixty and I am still trying to wrap my mind around that one because I just don't see it. Oh I see he's gotten older but to we three kids our parents will always be in their thirties, which were really good years for them.

Dad used to joke around and say he wouldn't make it past forty but he did. He made it through his childhood, wild teenage years, 40 years of marriage, three kids, finances, countless pets, health problems, and working his fingers to the bone.

I don't ever recall a time when dad put himself over mom and us kids.

When his only brother died years ago, he remained strong for his family, and when my mother's beloved father, our "gramps" had to make the final trip to the hospital before he died, it was dad who drove him.

When our great grandmother, a tough old Sicilian we called "Nonna" was sick and wouldn't eat, it was only dad who could get through to her.

When our beloved family pets died one by one over the years, it was dad who took on the task of burying them and it was dad who usually took us all back to the pound to get another one.

When we moved up here from Miami 25 years ago and dad couldn't get a transfer with Southern Bell right away, he lived on his own, sometimes in a camper perched on the back of his 1974 Ford pickup and worked away from home, visiting us on the weekends, sometimes less.

It was dad who protected my sister from a malicious asshole police chief whose only reason for pulling my sister over and taking her in was because he didn't like my parents.

When work needed to be done on the house, when pipes froze, when the driveway had to be redone, when cars needed to be fixed, when someone needed to get on the roof, dad was the one who did it.

When people made cracks about Jews and offended my mother's heritage it was dad who stood up to them.

When the union went on strike, dad never crossed a picket line.

It was dad who first put a .44 magnum and .357 in our hands and taught us how to shoot when we were kids.

When it was time to learn how to drive, it was dad who took us around our property time and time again in his cherished silver Lincoln while we tried to keep it on the road.

I recall the time he wanted to move a shed about 100 feet and when the vehicle pulling the shed got stuck, he attached another vehicle to the first one, when both vehicles were stuck with the trailer, he had to use a third one to pull them all out. Finally he had to get a neighbor's tractor to pull out the three stuck vehicles and the shed. That is a story we all will never forget!

Dad knows how to wheel and deal, I have never seen anyone make deals and get what he wanted like dad can.

And oh yes, he tells the BEST stories!

Dad often liked to work overtime because the money was excellent. And there were many Saturdays when we were home with mom and dad would say "go ahead take the kids out" even though going without him wasn't the same, it made him feel good that his wife and kids could go out and have a good time.

I recall how excited dad was when he was getting a really big tax refund and decided to build himself a workshop. He'd always had sheds to work in but never a really big workshop with plenty of space. For years after he built it, he spent countless hours in it. Most Saturdays and Sundays he'd be out there at the crack of dawn and you'd have to yell a dozen times to get him to come in for three meals. That's the only time you really saw him that day. He loved being out there, piddling on a car or something else. I remember he won this huge Magnavox television in a raffle and put that and a VCR in the shop and would watch John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, and Bruce Willis movies. Yeah even I used to pull my car in there to wax while watching Die Hard II. I guess sometimes the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Mom and dad are completely different personalities. Dad was always the more aggressive and assertive one (although mom does give him a run for his money these days), and mom was the more calm, compassionate, rational one. When he liked to argue, she liked to placate things and make everything copacetic. And even mom will admit that when times were tough, dad always made us feel like it was all going to be ok. Just his presence made us all feel better. There was this one time when we were kids when a tornado was heading towards where we lived. We all huddled in the hallway with the family pets while dad stood at the front door watching it. Dad stood at the front door watching it pass us by. I never understood how he could remain so calm in the face of fear but he did. I bet it was because he was thinking about our well-being and not his own. He's like that. A tornado hit our house one day when mom was home alone and it ripped part of the roof. For a few years, mom was terrified of storms and she was addicted to watching the weather. She would get upset at the slightest hint of thunder. She never felt completely safe unless dad was there with her. He had that ability to make you feel safe in times of crisis.

Dad has always been there for us, always working hard, not necessarily for himself but for mom and us. People know dad as the kind of man who keeps his word, who is trustworthy, dependable, and hardworking.

When we were kids dad had a temper, he was young and aggressive. He wasn't by any means perfect, he'd be the first to admit that. But as he aged, he mellowed, relaxed and became calmer. But he has never lost his ability to set things straight and make people understand where he's coming from. Nobody can pull the wool over his eyes, nobody can play him for a fool, nobody can one-up him.

I want dad to be around forever. Yeah I know he won't be but for just a moment it's nice to have that dream. As I watch him age and slow down somewhat, I recall the days when you could not slow him down, when he refused to give up and would not stop. In many ways he is still like that. He hasn't given up even when the odds were against him. Unlike mom who finds it easy to share her feelings, it's not always easy to know what's on his mind. We've learned that dad handles things in a way that is very personal to him and we respect that. We know he loves us even with all the shit we've ever done in our lives. We know he's there for us.

Life is so short, as he well knows and it can end at any moment. When dad had to have open heart surgery in December 2004, I never felt so lost at the thought that he might not make it. I knew we kids had to be strong for mom and for dad, but at home I just cried. DH was strong and kept telling me dad would be ok, that he's tough and strong and had much to do yet in life. And I knew he was right. And when we said goodbye to him before surgery, all of us family were crowded around him and we were all talking a mile a minute (yep that's normal for us!) and I remember mom asking dad if he wanted some quiet. He said no, it was ok, and he just listened to us all run our mouths! And at that moment I realized perhaps he wanted the noise, wanted to hear us go a mile a minute, that maybe he was listening intently to every word we were saying in case it was the last time he'd ever hear us again. When I thought of that, I got a terrible knot in the pit of my stomach. The strange thing is that in the waiting room, laughing with my siblings and my aunt, grams and mom about all the silly things that had ever gone on in our family, I had a renewed hope and knew dad would make it. He had much left to do.

I was right. And now all I want for him is happiness and good health. I hope he appreciates every day on this earth, and knows that his family loves him very much and our lives would not be the same without him.

I wonder sometimes if dad had big dreams for his life, for he and mom, and for us kids, and what kinds of dreams they were. I know he didn't ever imagine thirty years ago he would be where he is today (we can all relate to that can't we?) but I hope that when he looks back on his life he can see the good things in his life and all the good things he has done for others, and how wonderful a son, husband and dad he really has been and continues to be today. I hope he never ever looks back at any of the mistakes he made and has any regrets because life is so damn short, we just can't dwell on the regrets.

Whenever I hear "I Hope You Dance" by LeeAnn Womack I aways think of my parents, their dreams for themselves, and their dreams for us. I don't know what dreams dad had when he was a kid or in his thirties like me, but I hope that some of them did come true.

Happy Birthday Pa!


I hope you Dance
by LeeAnn Womack

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat
But always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small
When you stand by the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me you'll give faith a fighting chance

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances
But they're worth taking
Lovin' might be a mistake
But it's worth making
Don't let some hell bent heart
Leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out
Reconsider
Give the heavens above
More than just a passing glance

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
(Time is a real and constant motion always)
I hope you dance
(Rolling us along)
I hope you dance
(Tell me who)
I hope you dance
(Wants to look back on their youth and wonder)
(Where those years have gone)

I hope you still feel small
When you stand by the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me you'll give faith a fighting chance

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
Dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance
(Time is a real and constant motion always)
I hope you dance
(Rolling us along)
I hope you dance
(Tell me who)
(Wants to look back on their youth and wonder)
I hope you dance
(Where those years have gone)

(Tell me who)
I hope you dance
(Wants to look back on their youth and wonder)
(Where those years have gone)

4 comments:

  1. Oh Jess, thank you for that. I know it was written straight from your heart and it will make Dad feel so proud that you feel this way. You're a wonderful daughter and we both love you so very much.

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  2. Anonymous3/15/2006

    That is the most beautiful thing I have ever read and for it to be written about me just overwhelms me. I have had 40 very happy years of marrige and seen my three kids grow into beautiful,responceable and careing adults. A man could ask for nothing more. I am very lucky. " I had it all" I Love you very much Pa.

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  3. Your dad and my mother had the same birthday dates! My mom, deceased now, would have been 75 yesterday!

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  4. Happy Birthday!

    I think we all have "plans" for life that rarely work out the way we think they will.

    But it sounds like he did just fine and ended up with a wonderful family.
    Really, what more can someone ask for?

    ReplyDelete