My father died in 1989. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think about him or miss him.
Dad was a product of Chicago. He was born and raised here. His parents were Sicilian immigrants. He was a working man who did not want his kids to work as hard as he did.
Dad was raised as a butcher, like his own father. In the 1960s the business changed. He lost his store and went to work on the trucking docks. Sometimes he worked one or two full time side jobs.
My dad dropped out of school after his sophomore year. He went to the original Lane Tech at Division and Sedgwick.
When he was drafted in 1942 he served for three years in the South Pacific. He was in Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, and New Caledonia.
While my father did not have much formal education, he was educated. What he lacked in schooling he made up for in reading. He was intelligent, well spoken, and could debate any issue.
He knew more about Chicago history than most historians. While driving or walking around the city with him, he would cite various historical facts about the areas we were in.
Dad was so fast with figures, you never saw a pencil move so quick. He was always up to date on current affairs.
Dad was patriotic, with a deep and abiding love for his country. He, like his immigrant parents, relatives, and friends, considered America the biblical promise of a land of milk and honey.
He, as many of his generation, was a jack of all trades. He could do carpentry, plumbing, electrical, concrete, and other types of work. He also knew when something was too much to handle and called in a professional.
Both my parents were great cooks. They were wildly creative in the kitchen, As long as one left the other alone there was peace. My dad was a "foodie" long before the term was ever coined.
One year, the Chicago Tribune Magazine printed out the menu and recipes for the New Years Eve dinner at the Pump Room. Dad decided to replicate it. Unfortunately he found an error in one of the recipes. He called the chef. The chef agreed and blamed the Tribune. He gave him the original. The meal was fabulous.
My dad had friends from all walks of life. When I was a little kid he would take me with him when he went to meet them. When I became an adult I realized why. He was exposing me to what I could be if I wanted- a doctor, lawyer, CPA, dentist, contractor, professor, businessman, or other professional. These were people he grew up with, served in the Army with, or just made friends with throughout his life. He could also hold his own in any discussion with them.
He knew some of the more colorful and unsavory members of society, gangsters. This was not unusual. He grew up with some of them. They also owned, controlled, or had an interest in many of the legitimate businesses Italians frequented. His own father knew or was related to a few. So were members of my mother's side of the family. The details were never explained. Dad never really had anything good or bad to say about them. He, like many of his generation, felt they were our people just not our kind of people.
When times were tough my father got tougher. If he was laid off or there was a strike he found other work until the situation reversed itself. He refused to go on unemployment or take food stamps. He demanded to earn his way. In this day and age of lazy people's entitlements he would be called foolish. He was too proud to beg.
Holidays were his favorite times, especially Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. He would shop all over the city for days on end searching for special delicacies, sea food, cheeses, and other amenities. He, my mother, and other relatives would spend hours and hours preparing the feasts. Feasts that would put those old Romans to shame.
I do not remember my dad ever complaining about the life he lived or the hard work he did to provide. As long as he could provide a roof over our heads, put food on the table, clothe us, and have us around him, that was enough. He was a simple man who enjoyed simple pleasures.
There is one thing I will always know. My dad fiercely loved his family. He would do anything, and I do mean anything, to protect us. He was proud of his family and his ability to provide for them.
My only regret is my dad, like his father, died before he had grandchildren. He would never know my daughter and she would never know him. They would have had a great time together. They are so much alike it is scary.
Happy Father's Day dad. I love you, miss you, and am proud of you.
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