Papa, My Father…


Leo Buscaglia wrote a book entitled “Papa, My Father”, many years ago.  I remember reading it and sobbing.  In this memoir of his father, he told of the struggles of his immmigrant father, and in  this memoir of his father I saw my father.  I don’t write much about him, because it seems in my BPD mind I can only write about negativity and hardship.  But tonight, I would like to tell you about my Daddy, my hero.  My Grandmother tells the story of my father a vagabond she calls him when he was young, always with a suitase in hand ready to travel to a new destination, how she disliked him, how she tortured my mother for falling in love with him, marrrying him, little did she know what a treasure my mother was recieving.  These stories of my father traveling, never wanting to work, alwys ready for a new adventure are not the man I’ve known.  Coming to America with a new bride and children made him do a 360.  He came with twenty five dollars in his pocket, he has endured discrimination, I remember as a child, teenagers up the block calling him a guinea, a geep whatever that means, throwing rocks at our window, shattering them, why they picked on him I’ll never know, people judged him, ridiculed him, but he laughs it off… he has dealt with an emotionally dysregulated wife and daughter, but something in this little man (he is my height, very skinny), has kept his outlook on life positive, kept him moving, happy with as he tells me reading the paper and watching his soccer games.  Today he is almost 69 and he is still working, partly to clean up my mess, and I also believe partly to escape from the turmoil.  As a little girl, every day before work there’d be an exchange, a dollar for a kiss.  But, at around 13 the kisses stopped, I think he thought I was too old to be kissed by him, but for me it was a loss.  I’d put my money in a piggy bank at night, he now the responsible, hardworking father, would always tell me to save.  I’d  trade all the dollars in the world to have another kiss.  My father was a dishwasher, later becoming a chef, once in awhile he comes home with blisters all over his hands, from cooking, yet never a complaint.  He has always been my hero, when my mother would “lash”out at me, I would stand on a chair and call him at work, he’d talk to her, somehow calming her down, soothing the pain inside her.  There were nights I was terrified to sleep alone, and I’d jump in bed with him, hearing his heartbeat lullaby me to sleep.  My love of the ocean came from my father, every weekend, he’d take us to Coney Island.  He’d swim far out into the distance as my fear ridden mother would yell for him to come back.  With Daddy it was learn or drown:), I remember him throwing my brother and I in the water , telling us how to swim, as my mother again screamed we wer going to drown.  He’d ignore her, laughing, watching us, guiding us as we struggled… but we knew we were safe and eventually survived our “swimming lessons.”    I have strived in life, through the pain, the hopelessness, the grief, for one reason, to make Daddy proud.. I go to work everyday with the monsters in my head for one reason, to make Daddy proud, to make sure his “American Dream” come true.  Yet, I’m afraid I’m not making him proud anymore.  He tells me “You have to be strong. in this world.”  “You live in a different universe, people are not like you and they will take advantage of you.”  He has told me that since I was a child, somehow he knew I was different and somehow his predicitions came true.  You’re right Daddy, I live in a different world, I am different… and I am sorry I have not fulfilled the dream of that young immigrant boy who came here in search of a good life for his family.  My father has suffered dysfunction enough that would drive any man away, yet he has always stood by his family, pushing us, pushing me to accomplish what I have, it is because of him I can say I finished graduate school, it is because of him I can say I want to get better, it is because of him I hold on, it is because of this man, my hero, I can say I am alive today.  I won’t dissapoint you anymore , my father, I will recover and you will have your “American Dream..”

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2 Responses

  1. U are so lucky Marie. My block was filled with Russian Jews, Italians, , and Syrian Jews. I can now curse in Russian-Yiddish, Italian, and Arabic. No Protestants, and1 or 2 Irish Janet’s best friend was Irene Stigliano.Her mother would slap us in the head after school so We Dona misabehave. Her sauce was to die for She was our baby sitter. My blood brother Johnny’s father could throw a crucifix with painful accuracy He was a certified nut case, but Johnny’s mother and Irene’s mother has the special recipe from Sicily. Mr Stiglino Never talked. My father was the philosopher durin the 11 World war. Vat Ve Take PRRisoners. They come to kill us- ve kill dem. Cost money to feed them. Mt Hafif, spoke only ib Arabic to his wife. The men discussing politics on a Saturday morning were hilarious. They seemed to understand each other. All the mothers had one thing in common- they were all depressed. The men had a work ethic that was unbelieveable and we all learned to work like dogs.Tuesday night the men would all go up on the roof to watch the fireworks from Coney Island. My father had his vodka, Mr Stigliano hed his( purple foot).wine and a Di Noble. Mr Hafif drank some strange Syrian shit.. Every family was completely dysfunctional. All us kids bonded like glue, spoke English only in the street. but never in their own home. Most everything was a bunch of family maddness, but the work ethic never left us. Bill

  2. what a wonderful story

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