Wednesday, November 6, 2013

An old country man

If my father were here, he’d tell you his father was an old country man. He would say with a certain pride his father came here at a very young age, unable to read or write English. He would tell you that armed with a dollar pick and shovel he built a business that continues to shape lives three generations later. He would tell you his father eloped with the girl of his dreams, rebelling against every convention of his day.

He would also tell you my grandfather lost that girl during the depression, leaving him with nine children to rear. He would tell you his father managed to keep his family together and kept his business going during trying times. That he raised four sons who served their country honorably. He would tell you his father did his best under the most difficult circumstances. “Not bad for an old country man.” He would say.

It was through these stories my father taught me about family, loyalty, work ethic and honesty. I learned about honor and humility. I learned about giving back when he shared what his father had told him, “Do good and forget.” He taught me without my word I had nothing.

My father's stories were constant in my life.

There was one story my father told frequently, saying it as he heard his father, right down to the Italian accent. It sounded like, “Nonj you know? You no go looking for me. I go looking for you.” “Do you know what that means?” my father would ask. “It means no matter what you do, I will always be your father. Nothing you do can ever change that. It means you didn’t ask to be born, I invited you here.”   

When Sam first showed signs of differences, my father told me to believe in Sam. “Things have a way of working out,” he said. “He is a beautiful boy. You wait, he will surprise you.” As he watched Sam he would add, “Don’t forget what your grandfather said: 'Nonj you know? You no go looking for me, I go looking for you.’ Sam didn't ask to be born. We invited him here.” I heard those words many times over the years. They were among his final words to me regarding Sam.

Today on what would have been my father's 90th birthday, I remember the words of my father and grandfather. Tonight I will say them to Sam, to honor my father’s memory, to keep his stories alive.  I think my father would like that. I hope Sam will find in them the security my father found and the security I was lucky enough to know all my life. 

Nonj you know?
Yes, Dad, I know. I finally know.

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