Today is my dad’s birthday. He would have been 81, but he passed away in 2009. I wrote about his passing and the effect it had on me in an earlier post. I still get choked up when I read it, even after so much time. But I also smile when I realize where my own life has taken me since then, to new and unexpected love and adventures. It seems my life has always been a series of adventures, beginning with that eventful trip to Canada in 1964. That’s me on the right in the picture above, looking like a little waif.
Looking at this picture I can see character traits in each of our faces that still hold true to this day: a stubborn strength in my sister on the left, a gentle intelligence in the one on my dad’s knee, a kindness exhuding from my mother, and I note she is the only one smiling, and hesitant reservation in my father. (The stranger posing in the background and the huge jugs of wine on the tables still makes me laugh.) Absent are the sister who was left behind in her grave and another yet to be born. I see this picture and I wish my mother’s arm had been around my shoulder for I look so lost and forlorn. I wasn’t used to change and, to this day, I remember the strange taste and texture of the bread on board the Saturna, though little else except having to go on deck with life jackets in a storm. My mother tells me we were all seasick for a good part of the eight day voyage but I seem to have blocked that memory. I remember nothing of our trip to Naples to board the ship, and only a few images of the countryside while travelling by train to Montreal from Halifax. Again, I do remember our first meal at my aunt’s house when we arrived. It was chicken soup with little bow pasta. It tasted strange as well, and I couldn’t eat much. I was a very picky eater as a child. I still am, though I don’t mind strangeness nearly as much. I have lived in far too many places to let newness bother me. In fact I rather look forward to new experiences and feel restless when life becomes too monotonous.
My father never really liked change or adventure. His penurious circumstance propelled him to a new country in the hopes of a better life for himself and his family. This he achieved quite well. His courage to bring his large family to a strange new world and start fresh with no education, no skills or even language leaves me in awe, and I am forever grateful for the opportunities this opened up for me and my sisters. But my dad never really enjoyed his life in Canada. He spent his years there wishing to go back to Italy to retire. This he never managed to do for he became ill shortly before retirement and was hospitalized for the last years of his life. He did manage numerous trips back and spent a few wonderful summers there. The picture below is from his youth, riding atop his mule, Giulia. I hope somewhere, somehow, that memory of a lost youth is still alive and bringing him joy. I know the thought of it makes me smile.
A few more pictures of my father can be seen here.
Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend! Hug your dad if he is close. Call him if he is far away.