Today would have been my dad's birthday. He died seven years ago this coming March. He was 87.
My dad was born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1916. He was one of sixteen children born to Italian parents (one of four boys).
Dad was handicapped by polio during his early childhood. That handicap impacted his life, though not in the way some might expect. It made him stronger. You'd never really know that he grew up at a disadvantage to anyone.
I think about how terribly hard it must have been for him, at age ten or so, when polio changed his life forever.
He never talked about his childhood much, but the hand that life dealt him certainly made him more determined to succeed at whatever it was he decided to do.
I know he had disappoints in life, and probably quite a few regrets. Most of us do, but people didn't talk about those things during dads time. You just bucked up and went on, did what you had to do, lived your life as best as you could.
Dad at age 22, looking quite dapper.
My dad was an expert swimmer. During my own childhood I remember being in awe of how gracefully he moved through the water. I often said he swam like a fish. lol
He was an expert horseman. As a young man he rode in several Pasadena Rose Parades (I got my love of horses from him).
Dad with his beloved Niña - 1945
He could fix cars with the best of them, and this Cadillac was his pride and joy.
Though dad had wanted to serve during WWII, he wasn't allowed to because of his handicap. He watched his two brothers serve (one at Pearl Harbor), but was even turned away from a desk job. He went on.
Dad became a builder (he and my grandfather built homes in and around Baldwin Park CA), a machinist (losing several fingers during his career), a baker (one reason I hate donuts to this day), an accountant (the man had quite the head for numbers), and held several other jobs throughout his lifetime.
He withstood the stares of strangers with dignity. Stares he probably endured his entire life. I remember kids staring at him when I was a kid. Staring because he was 'different'. Because he walked with a limp. Because his brace was visible beneath his pants leg. I remember staring back at those very kids who were staring at my daddy.
I learned early on never to judge a book by its cover, never to judge a person with a handicap.
Dad never attended high school, but he was always learning. I remember him working two jobs and attending school at night, all in an effort to better himself and to provide for his family. In his mid-60s he went back to earn his GED. It was something he wanted, and he saw no reason that his age should be a barrier.
He said a person was never too old to learn.
We were never close he and I, and I spent most of my life trying to win his approval, but in spite of everything, he taught me a great deal.
I still miss him now and again, even with the way things were. So I think of him today.