>In honor of Father’s Day:
Weekends and holidays were spent with my dad.
He didn’t have much. He rented a small apartment in an old house. His bed was a mattress on the floor and his furniture was the “leftovers” from the divorce. I don’t remember any pictures on the wall, but I do remember the images on the closet doors; flowers and ancient symbols, which he painted.
He had no T.V. up until the time I brought him my “black and white” from home. Before this we listened to the opera of Luciano Pavarotti, the classical music of Mozart and Bach, and my favorite, Peter and the Wolf.
To go anywhere, we usually had to walk because he didn’t have a reliable car most of the time. In the dead of winter with subzero wind-chills, we would walk with icicles hanging down from our eyelashes to his cross-county ski shop where he worked, or to the YMCA where I watched him play handball.
On special days we walked to Embers restaurant for dinner, and than to Rainbow foods for dessert to take home. After dessert I would take a bath in the old, claw tub and then warm myself by the gas space heater while Dad made us tea. I still remember the smells of gas, lemon and honey and the sound of the heat blowing out of the heater.
One of our weekends together, after being dropped off by my mom and her boyfriend, my head was pounding and I felt very tired. Without a word spoken, my dad took me in the house, laid me on the couch, placed my head on his lap and he rubbed my temples until I fell asleep.
On another visit, he created “A Special Day,” just for me. In a letter he composed specially for this day, he wrote, “I declare a holiday from duty and fix my attention on the really important, you Nikki.” He made me dinner, “the kind of food you like plus something sweet for your sweet tooth.’ He picked me flowers, “borrowing their beauty to help decorate this special day,” At the end of the letter he wrote, “As your life moves forward, and some suffering comes your way, remember this day and that you are loved.”
My life has moved on, and suffering has come my way. When it does, I am reminded of the safe haven my father created all those years ago. At my fingertips I will always have the resources to go for a walk, take a bath, taste a cup of tea, listen to classical music, or just lie down and take in the sound of heat pouring out the vents, and remembering that I am loved.
Thanks, dad. And thanks to all of the fathers who commit to their children in the best ways they know how. You are very important in our lives.
*This article was originally published in the newsletter, Clarity, that I co-wrote and published with my father, Louis Di Virgilio. To read his writings, go to: http://ascendtheascent.blogspot.com/