Father's Day, giving dad his due

Father's Day. The Day of the Dad. The dude. Da man.

Dads will be opening gifts of ties, scents, shirts, sports themed items, bottles of adult beverages, or other things. Then the grill will be fired up and burgers, hot dogs, steaks or chicken will be charred. Maybe breakfast, lunch, or dinner out will be an option.

Maybe just a lazy day with the family altogether gathered round will be the choice.

For many of us Father's Day will be a day of remembrance. Our dads are gone.

Robert DiNiro created an art award named for his late father. This year, he produced a special to remember his father, artist Robert DiNiro Sr. titled, "Remembering the Artist: Robert DiNiro Sr".

"I just want to see him get his due. That's my responsibility." (Robert DiNiro/"Remembering the Artist: Robert DiNiro Sr.")

Not all of us are rich and famous actors, directors, or producers. The majority of us did not have artists as fathers. All of us cannot produce a special in homage to our dads, as Robert DiNiro did.

DiNiro's quote is very powerful. All of us should see to it our fathers get their due. It does not have to be public or in the form of a documentary.

The late folk singer, Steve Goodman remembered his father with the song, "My Old Man". All of us are not songwriters and singers.

We can give our dad's their due by remembering them, talking about them, especially to our children, or writing about them.

My dad was born to immigrants from Sicily. They came to Chicago as part of the Brooklyn pipeline. Brooklyn is where many Italians first settled after coming through Ellis Island. They saved their hard earned money for the promise of greener pastures in Chicago.

My grandparents first settled in "Little Hell", on Cambridge Street. Eventually the area would be turned into a different form of hell, Cabrini Green.

They moved and started a family. Eventually my grandfather bought a building in Wicker Park and opened a butcher shop. The family lived in an apartment above the shop. My dad became a butcher too.


Dad was drafted in the Army during World War II. He could have received a deferment as a sole son, under the rules of the time. He went to war. He was fortunate, as he was stationed in what today are exotic places. Australia, New Zealand, and New Caledonia. The only talk of the war we heard was about the exotic locations and some of the fun the G.I.s had.

He came home, returned to butchery, and eventually opened his own shop. When butchery changed and the supermarkets eased out the little guy he went to work on the trucking docks.

He did not complain. I heard the story about how he was shut down. It was never told in anger. Just a tinge of remorse. Dad had mouths to feed and a roof to keep over our heads. He worked on the trucking docks and took whatever part time and sometimes full time work he could get.

My dad dropped out of high school at 16, like many young men of the Depression era. He went to work. He had a real work ethic that he passed on to me. Work was the American dream. A job provided food, housing, clothing, and affordable creature comforts. The worst thing my dad ever said about anyone was they are lazy.

My dad was one of the smartest men I knew. Maybe the educational system was way better in the 1930s. He was articulate, well read, and could hold his own in any conversation. He knew and shared his love of Chicago history.

My dad knew people from all walks of life. From successful professionals, poor people eking out a living, and even some gangsters. He saw to it I met them all from an early age. He wanted me to see possibilities and learn consequences.

There were really only two things my dad had a passion for. His family and food. Dad was a foodie before the term was ever dreamed up. Grocery shopping on weekends was an excursion through various parts of the city. It could start before dawn around any holiday or special occasion.

My dad was a passionate cook, as was my mother. If they were risk takers, would have been successful restaurateurs or caterers. After a large meal, especially a holiday meal, dad would lean back and say, "I could die right now and be a happy man."

There were some rough times. Lay offs or strikes put a dent into things. When times got tough, dad found other work, sometimes day work as a butcher through the union. When times were rough priorities changed. Food and the mortgage were on top of the list. Comforts and even minor luxuries were out. We never knew we were poor and that word was never used.

I was an adult before I really appreciated my father. Maybe because he talked about his life more. Maybe because he knew that separation was coming. I was my own man. I was not his kid anymore.

Some of my fondest memories are just sitting at the table eating bread, cheese, olives, and some salami or other lunch meat, and maybe a glass of wine or two. Just sitting, talking, and eating.

My dad worked hard. He had no vices. His family came first and foremost. I can't make a movie about him. I can't write his biography. It would be boring. All I can do is give him his due today. That is my responsibility.

My daughter is an adult now. She is not my little girl anymore. But, she constantly reminds me, "I'm still your little girl, I just not puny anymore."

Maybe, someday when I am long gone, she will give me her due. That is her responsibility. That is all I would want for Father's Day.


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