Sunday, November 7, 2010

Out of Italy

So, I've had issues in the past. My dad was busy when I was young. My parents got divorced when I was about 5 years old. Do not pity me, I am thoroughly convinced that life was better that way. The memories that I have of my parents together is primarily fighting. A pretty large portion of my childhood was spent with my Dad trying to get through school. He ended up getting a PhD. My mom worked three jobs at one point to keep us in house and in clothes. I recall food stamps being an extremely important part of our food budget. She also somehow found time to date. She ended up marrying my step-dad, who I'll refer to as the Godfather, because I think he'd like that. The Godfather is an intimidating man, he's just over six feet tall and weather worn. He's quick with a big grin and a booming laugh. He's got the kind of voice that can silence a crowd, or stop a man dead in his tracks. The Godfather was Satan as far as I was concerned. I spent most of the time he knew me doing things to piss him off purposely. He spent much of his time correcting my behavior to teach me some discipline. I thought that I hated him for years. Yet somehow he kept going to work everyday and working for 12 hours then coming home to me all but spitting on him. Don't get me wrong. My Dad was in the picture. We spent every other weekend with him. He paid his child support. We spent some holidays with him. He just wasn't there all the time, due to the fact that he and my Mom are completely incompatible. Someday I might tell their stories, but this one is kind of taking it's own direction now, so I'm just gonna let it flow.

An Offer You Can't Refuse

The Godfather used to be a doorman at a bar. (Never ever call him a bouncer. You wouldn't like him when he's angry.) He would help suggest people 'get on getting on' when they had exceeded their limits or got a little too rowdy. He was also known to tend bar and DJ on occasion. He rode 'crotch rockets,' owned his own business and generally lived the bachelor lifestyle. I recall when my mom remarried pretty vividly. She was supposed to go on a weekend trip with a man who I'm pretty sure is still in jail for being a coke dealer. (She/we didn't know at the time. It does explain a lot, though.) Instead we come back from my Dad's house to find that she had married the Godfather. Having only met him a couple of times before, my brothers and I were pretty pissed.


Why Are the Drapes Open?

I'm pretty sure that most of the reason that we hated him so much was because he was doing those things that parents do. He was making us eat our vegetables. He was making us treat people with respect. He was punishing us when it was necessary. He had to establish himself as an authority figure in the house. Ultimately, this was a great thing. I truly believe that it was his heavy hand at the time that kept me from ending up in jail or worse. Much of my childhood was spent cursing this guy. His father (who I'll call Vito, for continuity) welcomed us with open arms and heavily accented English.

A Man Who Doesn't Spend Time with His Family Can Never Be A Real Man

Vito was a great man. He came here with nothing from Italy. He pulled himself up to a comfortable life from that. As I knew him, he was a man with many grandchildren. My Mother and the Godfather had a child together and Vito treated us just as well as her. We'd all go to spend the night at his house, and often in the morning we'd all go to the park. It seemed like every time Vito went to the park, he came home talking about all the new grandchildren that he had. Like any man though, sometimes Vito's relationship with his own children was complicated. He surely wasn't a perfect father, but no man is. Vito always seemed to have candy, from what era, I couldn't say, but he always had candy. "You go tell your cousin she has a grande culo." Every time I think about him I smile. He had a sense of humor every day I knew him.  Vito loved to show the videos he had of all his grandchildren. I always hated sitting through them, but his eyes always lit up talking about his family. He loved them all and somehow made us feel like a part of that. I think the Godfather has a streak of that in him as well, I see his eyes light up the same way when he sees my daughter. Towards the end, as men do, his faculties weren't what they once were. I'm told though, that he spent time speaking in several tongues with the priest who came to counsel him in his final days. Vito died awhile back. It was right before Christmas. The day that he was buried was bitterly cold. It didn't seem fair to spend so little time at his graveside, but we all respected and loved Vito.

I've Always Taken Care of You, Fredo

The Godfather is a very important man in my life. He's as much a father to me as my biological father. I've always suspected that he was secretly bearing a massive weight. He had two children before he met my mother, both of them a few years older than me. For whatever reason, he wasn't or couldn't be a father to them. He never went too far into his relationship with his kids. Although one of them came to stay with us for awhile. It was a strange experience not to be the oldest. She was trying to reconnect with her father, it was a strained relationship. It still seems to be. I've maybe only met his son once. From all that I can tell they don't have much contact. I'm afraid that the mistakes that he made with them torture him. When I was younger, it kind of irked me that he always introduced me as his son. These days, I'm proud to say that I am a son with two very different fathers. I didn't always get along with the Godfather. In fact, we only really started to get along when I moved out of the house. I've only recently started to appreciate all the tools he's given me to be a father. I'm sure we'll have disagreements in the future. When you have opinions as strong as the Godfather's there's almost always a disagreement to be had. I've always wanted to say that even though he may have made mistakes in his life, we all do, I think he saved mine. For that, I'll never know how to repay him.

Listen to this to complete the experience:


  1. I saw this title and wasn't sure what to expect. I agree with your assessment of the traditional family values that this culture is founded on and more and more as of late I understand that importance, and while I treasure the independence I have we all also have responsibilities at our roots. My own experiences as a child and as a young adult have started shaping the ways I would act or at least hope to act in the future. In the last couple years I have seen my brother become a father and one can't help but wonder how to handle the stress. I think that it's difficult to prepare for the future but parents and sometimes the extra parents can do a really good job and I can honestly say I have never been unprepared for anything big in life as of yet and I owe that parenting and lessons learned.

  2. I've been thinking about that for awhile. Talking about where your actions come from when you don't know what to do as a parent.