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Amazing how it has been almost 20 years since he passed away, and I still refer to him when speaking with my brother as ‘ Daddy’. Is it just a baby boomer remorse or is it what the man always meant to me? As I grew older and went to college, smoked pot and chased women, he was still my ‘Daddy’, regardless of all the many differences we may have had. I could embrace him and kiss him as I did as a wee little boy and he was my ‘ Daddy’. As I sit here by my word pro and type I am crying… for him!

My father, one can say, did not have an easy life. He was the only child of a Sicilian immigrant father and Neapolitan immigrant mother. At the age of twelve my father lost all his teeth from periodontal disease. Within 11 years he lost his father, when my grandmother found him laying in the bathtub under the shower curtains… bloody dead from the bullet he put in his head. My grandfather, a proud man, had been a machinist in NYC when he and other workers went out on strike during the height of the depression. He was arrested and was blacklisted from his trade. For years he could not even receive  welfare, which was then called ‘ Relief’. My father had dropped out of college to work, along with my grandmother who found employment in a factory. This barely kept the family above water financially, and this paid a toll on my grandfather’s psyche. Before he took his life my grandfather made my father swear that he would never leave his mother alone. So, when he married my mother her mother in law came with the new apartment, which caused terrible friction. My brother and I both suffered from this highly dysfunctional situation, with constant arguments between the three of them.  Yet, despite it all my father still was very indulgent of me.

My earliest memories of my father was one of affection between the two of us. I was his little buddy and tailed along with him as much as possible. When he would come home from work he would have a baseball or football catch with me in front of the house. I could recall that when a terrible storm was about to hit Brooklyn, he rushed to the school , grabbed my arm and took me home. One time, when he was still doing some part time bookmaking, he would take me with him on Saturdays to do his collections and payouts at a local tavern. I can recall him picking me up and seating me on a barstool , ordering me a Coke and some peanuts while he conducted his business. As I grew older he would always take me to all my Little League, Pony League and Church League baseball games. He was so proud of his son’s prowess.  One Saturday at the ball field he had these two large men in overcoats come sit with him as I played. Years later he told me the story. They were detectives who had pinched him a week earlier on a Saturday morning around the corner at the candy store. He made a deal with them and was paying them off during my game.

How many times when I had gotten a splinter in my finger or foot, my father would patiently pick it out with a flame sterilized pin. Or on Saturday nights, when he would start making our Sunday gravy ( as we Italians called our tomato sauce) I would sit in the kitchen with him watching The Jackie Gleason Show. Invariably he would cut a piece of Italian bread and dip it into the gravy for me. Sometimes I would get the added treat of one of his famous meatballs smothered in sauce. On Sundays, after Church, he would patiently grate the Parmesan cheese for dinner. Imported  Parmesan cheese , even in those days,  was pretty pricey. My father would take a napkin, gently open it up and place the cheese grater smack dab in the middle. He would grate the cheese carefully, and then place it into a small bowl. He didn’t have to ask me, because I was already standing next to him awaiting a nice piece of this delight. After dinner my brother and I would sit with him to watch our New York Giants football team on the TV. At game’s end he and my Mom would take us all to the movies. One irony was the time they took us to see the hit movie Psycho, and my father instructing me to ‘ Cover your eyes when it gets too rough for you.’ I peeked.

A strange incident occurred in 1977 when my first son was two. On this Sunday, due to the blizzard we had just experienced, my first wife and I stayed at our apartment rather than trudge to my parents’. We had taken our boy to a new pediatrician a few days earlier when he was feverish. That afternoon my parents came by to visit us and their first grandson. Suddenly the boy started going into convulsions. My wife had me fill the bathtub with lukewarm water, and she placed him in. I was getting panicky and ran to the phone and called 911. They said that they would send an ambulance as soon as they could. With a foot and a half of recent snow the prospects of them getting to us on a Sunday did not look great. I looked at my father, who seemed to not be his usual patient self, and I exclaimed ‘ Daddy, what’ll we do?’ For the first time in my life of 25 years he looked at me and said ‘ I don’t know! ‘ I just grabbed the phone, called the local hospital to tell them we were bringing  our two year old boy with convulsions to the emergency room. My father had a bigger car than me, so we hurried out in the snow filled streets. { P.S: The ambulance never did show up, as we left my mother to wait for them}. Perhaps some of my father’s practicality had rubbed off on his son.

When my mother, years later, passed away in the hospital at 89 years of age, my new wife and I had to go to the nursing home to let my father know. He was sitting in a wheelchair in the lobby. We both told him the sad news and hugged him. The tears rushed from his tired eyes like rain through a letterbox. This was the first time that I had ever seen him cry and he did so like a little baby. Within ten months he too passed on. My daddy was gone, and God I did love him so!!!

PA Farruggio
June, 2023