Aug 21, 2022, Sun — Today is my dad’s birthday. Happy Birthday Dad! We used to celebrate his and my oldest brother’s birthday, which is tomorrow, together. It was a wonderful late summer gathering out at my brother’s every year. My dad died about 8 years ago. Maybe longer, let me check. May 12, 2011 was his last day here. Eleven years, wow. We sang him songs as he passed over. All the old Americana that he loved so dearly. Red River Valley, You are My Sunshine, On Top of Old Smokey, and many more. He played the harmonica and taught us these tunes from day one. We held his hands and basically laid hands on him, all crowded on his bed with him, softly signing these songs. When words fail, sing.
He was a beautiful soul. A bit tortured for good reason, like we all are. But he’d found his angle of repose. He prized education, liberal politics, staying active and physically fit, and was a class act through and through. Born to Italian immigrants who got here during the depression, he was the last child of four, the first son with three older sisters. His mother, Maria Palma (maiden name) died when he was three. His father, Massimo, with no idea how to work and care for four kids, including one toddler, quickly remarried a widow with two children of her own, and my dad’s sisters were sent away as live-in helpers for other families. This was western Massachusetts, Springfield area.
They kept my dad because he was too little to work. He remembers his stepmother withholding food and milk from him so her two children could have more. Of course, his father, out working, did not know. The chilly stepmother, however, had a warm-hearted son, about five years older than my dad. Frank would stash food into his pockets from his own plate and give it to my father later in their shared bedroom. The life-long bond that formed was a beautiful thing — and what luck for my dad to acquire a big brother, worthy of the title.