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A father writing to his son
An exercise of love
As I think of my life now and the people who are part of it I feel truly blessed as I now have a family of my own. I have many fond memories of my parents and my sisters and I enjoy reflecting on those special moments in my life which always helps me to smile and feel good inside. It is a part of my life that is distant but never forgotten. I remember my mom always telling me how proud she was of me and I remember my dad taking me to my little league baseball games. When I think back to the time when I was a child I can't help but wonder what it is that made it all possible. In understanding life and our birth it truly is a miracle that we are here when you realize how many generations came before us and how we managed to come into the picture. Sure it was our parents coming together that made it all possible but they also came into this world as a result of their parents coming together and it goes back to earlier generations. We can't even trace back how far our family lineage goes but it would certainly be a very interesting project to consider if we were able to piece it all together. Our lives are indeed special and we must realize this each day as we encounter the many ups and downs along the way. Sure I have feelings of wanting more in my life and hoping I will get to see my son achieve his own success and happiness. It is after all a very special bond that a father has for their child, a son or a daughter and likewise for a mother for their child, a son or a daughter.
There is nothing more powerful than that of words expressed with emotion, love and heartfelt sincerity. I still can remember words of encouragement spoken by both my mom and dad throughout my childhood and my early adulthood. I needed parental support and guidance through the years and I was very grateful for all that they had provided me. It is simple but the most precious gift my dad left for me was a book written by Gay Talese called the Bridge which featured a chapter about his experience of working on the Verrazano Bridge and the tragic day he lost a coworker and friend as he was in the center of it. He had just finished talking with his friend Gerard and they both went on their way to start the work day. My dad loved working outdoors and he had no fear of heights in his job as an ironworker. As he started to use the rivet gun he heard screams coming from nearby. As he turned in the direction of the screams he looked in horror at Gerard who was desperately clinging on to the catwalk as he lost his footing and my dad trying to compose himself lunged forward to reach at him and grab a hold of his hand as he laid stretched out on the catwalk. As he tried to pull him up it seemed hopeless as my dad did not have the strength in his hand after losing 2 fingers in a crane accident months earlier.
The remaining moments were very difficult for my dad as he tried to save his friend's life but could not and if it were not for the quick actions of another ironworker, Lloyd LeClaire my dad would have gone over too. Lloyd managed to pull my dad back to the catwalk but Gerard's hand slipped through my dad's hand and all he remembered was the screams and then seeing Gerard's shirt blow off as he hit the surface. My dad lost a friend, a fellow ironworker and his innocence that day. He was never the same after that but he had to stay strong knowing he had a wife and a young son at home waiting and depending on him. I have that book in a special place and I read it from time to time knowing how great a person my dad was.
What makes this book extra special to me aside from being written by one of the most interesting writers, Gay Talese and as a tribute to all the men and women responsible for the construction of the bridge, are the words my dad wrote on the inside jacket which are as follows: "To my successful son Edward D. Iannielli, III The Account, And his lovely little family Maria, little Matthew and Grandma Terry. I wish you all Prosperity, love, long life And Happiness "Pop" Edward D Iannielli Jr.
My dad was a very kind, caring and compassionate man who took great care of Mom, my 2 sisters and I and he was a very hard working and dedicated ironworker and devoted family man. I miss him and mom very much and I sometimes look back at family photographs and think back to the days when I was a kid and the special bond I had with my parents. I learned a lot from them and I try to teach my son what they taught me. His special words are my wonderful memory of him.
Another thing about the book that I hold near and dear to my heart and in the front of the book is an e-mail written from a young mother who is a fan of Gay Talese and his books. One of her favorite books is the Bridge and she encouraged her son, an eighth grader to read it and write a report about it. She had sent me an e-mail at a sad time in my life as we had lost dad tragically and her words were a tremendous boost and a fine tribute to my dad. I was so touched by her words that I wanted to share them here and they are presented in her e-mail as follows dated November 25, 2009,
Dear Mr. Iannielli:
I hope you don't mind me writing to you like this-- I found your blog because I was googling your father's name this morning for my 13 year old son. At my suggestion, he is reading "The Bridge" for his 8th grade English class at Pleasantville Middle School, here in Pleasantville, New York. (They had to choose a nonfiction book this quarter, and I love Gay Talese, and loved that book in particular.) Last night he read Chapter 6, about your dad and Gerard McKee, and he was very moved. He wanted to know, "What happened to 'The Rabbit' after that?" So I did some research and found out that Mr. Talese wrote another chapter to the book several years ago; I also saw your dad mentioned in a NYT article from December 2001, about the Ground Zero cleanup. I explained to my son that although it was a terrible thing that happened on the Verrazano that day, your dad went on to keep building, and he also helped right after 9/11. (He also was quite intrigued about his severed finger! He asked me "Which would you have chosen, a straight finger, or a bent one?" I said, "A straight one, but I'm not a steelworker." He quickly corrected me: "IRONworker, Mom, it's IRONworker!") In doing my "research", I happened to see your dad recently passed away; I'm so sorry for your loss. But he left a wonderful legacy to you and your family -- his strength, his courage and his love. It was great to read about him helping your son with his Legos. I'm sure he was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather. I hope it helps, in dealing with your loss this holiday season, to know that people are still reading about your dad, thinking about him and appreciating the kind of man he was. All the best to you and your family, Maria Sullivan.
When I read Maria's e-mail, I had tears in my eyes and I felt so proud of my dad and all that he stood for and I was so deeply moved by her beautiful tribute to my dad. Her words helped me through a difficult time and I will cherish them and keep them in the book as a wonderful memento and I am so thankful for her reaching out to our family and sharing her story of her and her son and the way she was touched by my dad. I share her very special words with tremendous gratitude.
I have summoned the strength to put into words my own feelings and I wish to help my son and inspire him to be the best that he can be. He is a wonderful young boy and I am so very proud of him and realize that he has challenges but he also has great courage and he has wonderful memories of "Pop" and the special times they shared together. Those moments are priceless and they will never be forgotten. I feel it is very important to write and express myself and share a part of myself with my family and my son. I know my son has great potential and Pop realized this from the very beginning and he would always treat Matthew just like any other kid. He always enjoyed spending time with him and was always so proud of his grandson. I am happy that they did get to spend some time together. It is our most important role in life to teach our children and inspire them to bring out their very best in all that they do. For me writing is a way to help provide my son with a lasting journal of my thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams and good wishes to share with him and to help him in realizing how much we love and cherish him and want to see him find happiness, success, companionship and riches in his life. Though he is diagnosed with Autism, it does not mean he has to settle for less. He too can reach for the stars and have a wonderful life if he chooses to. We are here to help guide him, nurture him and show him the way so he can make proper decisions and always feel loved.
I write this as a lasting tribute for my dad and for my son to show him how much I love him and wish to always be there for him now and always.
Edward D. Iannielli III
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