We called him The Patriarch – in life and even in death. It’s inscribed on his gravestone.
He loved the title; and it fit.
From the time he was a teenager and took care of the family business after his father had a heart attack, for the rest of his life he took care of everyone around him – from extended family to employees to friends.
Yet his bite could be as bad as his bark. The savvy and skills that meant success in business didn’t transform him into a warm and fuzzy Teddy bear at home.
In a way my Dad was a kinder, gentler version of The Great Santini.
He laid down strict rules and expected them to be followed; he set high expectations and expected them to be met.
Breaking my midnight curfew by minutes—meant weeks of being grounded.
Even harder was satisfying his standards.
To future college admissions officers, a couple C’s on my report card sophomore year was a blemish on my stellar high school record. To my father, this was a disaster, deserving of drastic measures—-an entire semester when I was not allowed to date, go out on weekends, or even use the phone.
I could hardly believe there were daughters who had their daddies wrapped around their little fingers. My life was the opposite—I couldn’t imagine getting my father to do what I wanted.
Plenty of times, he showed his softer sweeter side—playing baseball with me, taking me to his office, helping me with homework.
And nothing made me happier than making him proud of me.
Although I knew he loved me— he also intimidated me.
He was all strength; my mother was all softness. She was my comfort, my confidante; and she was the same for my dad.
When she died at 41, my father seemed less a super-hero for the first time ever.
Though he was so capable of so many things, like a typical man of the fifties, he was ill equipped for my mother’s job— raising 3 teenagers in the sixties and seventies.
Still, he did it incredibly well, and he did it alone.
He never remarried, he told me once, because he didn’t want to risk jeopardizing his relationship with his children. There was never any doubt about his focus—-we knew we came first.
I always think my mother was mostly responsible for the person I became; though I only had her for 18 years. Although for most of my life, my father was my only parent and my main influence.
No one taught me more about having a fierce love for your children; no one taught me more about family; no one taught me more about loyalty.
And more than anything else, no one taught me more about what you are capable of doing after you say: I never signed up for this.