My dad is my everything. We have a very close relationship. He lives in my hometown of Racine, about four hours from here. We talk a few times a week and our conversation is usually about what we made for supper, good movies to watch, and how Geno and the kids are doing. He is a full blooded Sicilian who loves to cook and is one of the best cooks I know. He has a wonderful sense of humor and all the grandkids, including my own love him. He loves to shop and is known to go shopping once a day. He is a vain man who likes to look nice. At one time I think he had three closets full of clothes. I remember him getting ready to go out, looking in the mirror, singing “Do ya, Do ya, Do ya wanna dance and hold my hand baby” lol. He is known by many and loved by all.
My earliest memory of him is when we lived across the street from his parents. He was doing his hair in the bathroom, slicking it back like some cool dude. I was probably three. I also remember laying on the living room floor with my dad, watching TV and eating chips and dip and drinking Pepsi in a glass bottle. My parents divorced when I was seven years old. I had learned that my mom made it almost impossible for him to see us. Later in life, as I observed his dedication to his family, I am sure it was true. He most certainly would have been there.
After my mom and step dad moved us up north we rarely saw my dad. Then one day is was brought to our attention that our step dad wanted to adopt us. And he did. Our last name changed and we wouldn’t see our dad for years. We were the talk of our school for awhile because no one there had ever known someone at our age to be adopted. I am not sure that any of us kids could tell you how we felt that day. It was just another evil act from our mother to be rid of our father. We never got to see him or the rest of our family that we were so close to anymore. Except a cousin on my dads side of the family that my mother stayed close to for awhile. I am sure for information about him. And my dads godparents who stopped in once or twice to see us. Later as an adult I realized that my mom sent our school pictures home with them so that they could give them to my grandparents. I saw a picture of my Nana opening the box with the school pictures in it. Why? Why would my mom do this? If we were not allowed to have contact with our family, then how come she could? How manipulative and ill minded.
One day when I was living with Joan, I was washing the kitchen floor and the phone rang. I answered the phone and it was my brother. He never called me. He called to tell me that dad had called. And I was like, “So, what did he want?” My brother said, “No, our real dad called. He had heard that you were having some problems and that you had Sara and wanted to talk to you and see how you were.” I said “Oh my God. Mom would kill me. What should I do?” My brother gave me our dads phone number and said “what’s it gonna hurt if you call him.” And so I did.
It was in July of 1979. Sara was 6 months old. Dave and I and Sara traveled to Wausau to the Holiday Inn where I would see my dad for the first time in quite a few years. I was so nervous. I knew my mom would absolutely kill me if she knew that I was seeing my dad. When we got to the Holiday Inn, there he was. A handsome man with dark hair and sideburns. Dressed in a nice shirt and dress pants. With him was my Nana, one of my most favorite people in the world. My godmother, Aunt Gracie who would become one of my best friends. My Aunt Bea and I think my Aunt Angie was there too. I apologize if I left anyone out. There were tears, many tears as we said our first hello’s. There were gift’s for Sara galore, and one was a little brown teddy bear from my dad, that played “This Old Man, He Played One”. I still have this bear. He is a little wore out now but he still plays that song. We visited for a couple hours and then they all came back to Joan’s house on the farm to see where I was living. And I am sure to make sure I was in a good place. After the visit they had no doubt that I was ok there. Joan put on a spread of food that one of my aunts would talk about for years. Especially the cool whip salad that she made. Joan could cook, and when people were there she could make a meal to die for.
After we ate by Joan, my Nana gave Sara her bath. I remember her talking in Italian to her as she poured the baby powder on her. Nana loved babies. And I loved my Nana. After a bit, they all loaded up and went back home. The feeling I had seeing my dad that day has never left me. I still get all excited to see him walk into my house. There were times that he would surprise us and come over unannounced. When he is here we plan the meals and it is not unusual for him to bring half his kitchen along. Even bread crumbs! Because you know we live in an area that doesn’t have bread crumbs, lol! Of course we travel to Marshfield, Wausau or Medford to the grocery store. Or to our local IGA. We sometimes stop for a beer at the local bar where he has gotten to know a few people throughout the years. And we like to go out to eat. Our visits are mainly about food. As we eat dinner he wants to know what we should make for breakfast. The kids just laugh at him. And we usually try to get my brother and sisters over to the house for a family get together. Sometimes it works out and sometimes not everyone can make it. Its all good…no pressure from anyone.
I have a lot of history with my dad. Dave and I would visit him quite often. We would go out to eat. We would go out dancing which was a blast! We would go to one of my aunts houses. Again to eat! lol After I divorced Dave I would go to Racine to Dad’s probably once a month. I would pack up my girls and we would drive down for the weekend. These weekends included lots of food, movies, visiting with cousins and aunts and uncles. I would not trade these memories for anything.
Later I found out that my dad actually came to the Athens High School looking for me after he heard that I was pregnant. I was living in Wausau with the family I worked for the summer before, and was getting tutored so I wasn’t in Athens at the time.
When I met Geno I was living in Racine and staying with my dad. Geno called me out of the blue and it was so awesome to hear from someone from home. Even though I was home, at my dads, my real home was back up north. Eventually I started traveling back up north just about every weekend to spend time with Geno. At the end of the week I would leave after work and travel to Fenwood. The kids and I would spend the weekend with Geno. Not long after, I got a job up north and I moved in with Geno. My dad liked him and was probably ready to pay him to get rid of us, lol. Geno and I were eventually married October 23, 1993 and my dad gave me away. He cried and I just melted. He was so proud. Dad even stayed with the girls while Geno and I went on our honeymoon. When we got back the following week he was walking out as we walked in. He was ready to go back to his life, lol. He did great with the kids and I think they enjoyed having gramps take care of them. I had one huge pile of laundry when I got home, but dad had all his clothes washed and ready to go. It was actually funny.
The spring before Geno and I were married my dad agreed to adopt all four of his kids back. It was the first adult adoption in Racine County and maybe even in the State. It was the most beautiful day. All four of us kids, our kids, and my dad went to the courthouse and we got our last name back and a new birth certificate. The judge was so nice. And then Geno took us all out to eat to celebrate the most healing moment that us four kids so deserved.
Every moment I get to spend with my dad is a gift. His love is unconditional and authentic. He has taught me a lot during the last thirty six years. I can call him anytime for advice, for a laugh, for a recipe, or just to tell him I miss him and love him. When I cry, my dad cries with me. When I call and brag about my kids and grand kids he gleams with me. He rarely speaks ill of anyone, unless they are republican, lol. He would go to the end of the world for any of us and I would do the same for him. He is a real gentleman and is never afraid to say I Love You or I’m Sorry. He’s been my rock and I am so happy that I made that phone call way back then.
I love you dad!