Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Dad

This is the last picture, the last time we saw him, on Thanksgiving, in my kitchen, going home, hands always behind his back, always.

Words, thoughts, experiences, rolling around in my head every waking moment.

Writing for me has always been a sort of release, an outlet to the thoughts that swirl in my heart.
This is hard, harder than I've ever thought possible.
I want to honor my Dad, remember him, bless him, thank him. I want to write about him, tell his story.

It is too fresh, too close, too near to losing him. The words are there but not in complete sentences or thoughts.

" May you live every day of your life. "

I just read this and immediately thought of my Dad.

He lived every single day, with joy, with enthusiasm, with laughter, with purpose, with a kind, loving, giving spirit.
He taught me so much about life and people and goals, about kindness and how to treat others. He was a giving person, always sharing, always present, always there. His story is one I know in my heart. It is one of courage and strength and determination.

He faced all odds yet came out on top, smiling.

Born in 1926, two month premature in a tiny village in Abruzzi Italy, he was born in a farmhouse with no heat or running water, in January, on a cold blustery winter day. His grandfather Sabatino raced down the mountainside to get a priest to bless this little baby not expected to make it through the night.

My father was a fighter from day one.

He made many connections in Italy, these connections still exists today.
Relatives, friends, neighbors call to express sorrow yet share stories of how kind and strong he was.
They tell me my Father was an example of a man with an adventurous spirit, someone they still look up to today.

His dream was to come to the United States.
I asked him once when he had that dream, he told me always.
He made that dream come true.
In 1953 he came to this country after working in the steel mills in France for three years to save for his passage.
He came to New York, not knowing the language, he came to this country with determination, and a dream. He married my mom in an arranged marriage. They will be married 58 years on January 31st 2012.

He came here with a sense of adventure, a determination, a sense of humor, a strong work ethic, a gentleness to treat everyone, no matter who they were with respect.
He always always gave more than he had. To the church, to the homeless on Race street when we would go to Chinatown. He would eat Chinese food but was always looking for the bread! A true Italian!
He shared his wealth of barbering by becoming a teacher and taught all of us, his four kids how to cut hair. We all worked in his barber shop, we worked as a family, came home and had dinner as a family.

He did this by taking us to "old age homes" a term we used in the 70's. We went with our scissors and straight razors and gave haircuts to everyone on Sunday mornings. We made rosaries by the dozens and he sent them to poor countries. He went to church everyday of his life until the onset of Alzheimer's made him slower and more fragile.
He had a ready smile, always, no matter what.

He patted my mom on the backside up until the very end. His love for her was timeless.

I am remembering his life, in the early morning hours, at night time as I try to fall asleep with tears in my eyes. I am remembering his goodness, his wit, his sayings, his stories.

I will keep him with me always.

I can describe my Dad in so many ways. He was a special man. A true and good soul, a gentleman, a scholar, an inventor, he invented the flat top comb in the 50's and became Flattop champion in Hairstyling shows in New York.

We traveled together, going to Italy.
One year Clint and I and my mom and Dad went to Abruzzi and visited the old farmhouse where he was born, we drove through the countryside and visited all his childhood friends and family.
They didn't know we were coming and I still remember the shouts of joy as they saw my Father approaching. One man threw his hat in the air and put his arms around my father in unadulterated delight to see him again.
All made feasts and invited everyone, we ate like kings, each family and friend trying to out do the other and show Armando how much they loved and missed him. I saw respect and love in their faces as they talked to my Father, I realized how much he meant to so many people.

I may be rambling but these thoughts are swirling around in my head, big tears are falling upon this story.
My dad lived his life with grace, with love, with respect, with kindness, with a yearning for knowledge and a sense of humor, a big smile and a big heart.

We are all close, my family is close, I saw my Mom and Dad almost everyday. They live a half a block from me. I am lucky, I am blessed to have him, to know him, to learn from him, to be in his presence.
We are all mourning, each of us. Tomorrow is his funeral. We will honor him and remember him and know that he is always there for us, no matter what. I will miss talking to him, asking his advice, laughing with him, I will miss his sparkle, his exuberance, his zest for life.

I love you Pop. You did live every day of your life.
You left us in a gentle way, with grace and dignity and we will miss you.


  1. Please accept heartfelt condolences on the passing of your Dad. It is hard to lose our parents and I miss my mom and dad every day. I, like you, have wonderful memories and wisdom imparted by my parents. This will keep your heart happy. Bless you and your family.
    Diane, Garnet Valley, PA

  2. Of the good way, or path (DiBonaventura). As far as I see it, you're on that same good path. My love during this hard time.

    Maria Cipollone

  3. Susan,
    I have fond memories of being at Armando's for haircuts with my Mom, brother and sisters. Your Dad was always there to greet us with a smile and a lollipop. He always tried to make us laugh as we were sitting waiting for you or Grace to cut our hair.
    My heart goes out to you and your family as I know your heart is broken.
    I hope you find comfort in the love and memories of your Dad.

    Stacy O'Connell(Mendez)