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A Father's Wisdom
"I wanted you to be a happy, carefree little girl with no worries beyond being sure that your teddy bear was in your bed at night. I wanted you to be exposed to any learning experience, since you always had so much curiosity and needed to know 'why', your favorite word." (Miss Sammie's journal, May, 2002)
Both of my parents saw to it within their power to give me and my siblings this happy and carefree childhood. Looking back, I really was as comfortable and safe as this little baby in her Daddy's arms through my formative years.
Mom (Sammie) and Dad (Henry) both had modest childhoods and were used to doing without in the way of material possessions. Mom was the middle of five daughters, growing up in Washington, GA. Dad was the youngest of 10, raised in Norristown, PA, by Sicilian parents, who had died before I was born.
Dad met Mom in Charleston, SC in 1943. Mom was working during the war at Western Union taking messages on the switchboard. Dad stopped by the U.S.O. when Mom was volunteering with her girlfriends, at the Naval Base in Charleston. Two years later they would be married, on July 7th, 1945.
I was born way later in November, 1961 in Norristown PA. Before me, my brothers and sister were born in 1946, 1951 and 1954.
Dad worked as far back as I can remember as an engineer for Reading Railroad. While Mom ran a firm but loving household, Dad was a solid bread winner and a decent man in the grand scheme of things. Family and spirituality were equally important to Dad.
He believed in respect, loyalty and honor in the family. I admit he was old fashioned in his views of women, which may be understandable considering his generation and our strong Italian - American heritage on my paternal side.
I grin as I recall his conviction that any woman who smoked cigarettes 'was a tramp'. And, you know, for those few years I smoked (sorry, Daddy)... I always felt a bit trampish...!
I instantly smile now when an Italian meal is served without bread. I can remember the 'stink' (a Miss Sammie word...) my Daddy raised when we were invited to my brother Johnny's home and bread was not on the table. Suffice to say, there was always bread on the table after that incident.
I seemed to have Dad figured out early on. I clearly had an advantage, as I saw my siblings get a verbal smack down when not in immediate compliance with his request. It was always the same. "Show your Father some respect." Mom urged us along if there was the slightest hesitation. She was a peace keeper at all costs.
I have always respected my elders, whether family, colleagues or patients. I believe this is due to my Dad's expectations. I believe they were worthy expectations in the grand scheme of things.
I got my Dad talking and smiling every once in a while. He was generally so serious. As I look back, I am convinced both of my parents carried such worries in keeping our family happy, healthy and never in want for anything of true necessity.
In this month of gratitude and thanksgiving, I am especially indebted to both of my parents.Their children were the center of their worlds and today, we are all well adjusted, happy and productive members of society. My siblings and I are as different as family can be. Yet all four of us share the common love and respect of family and faith.
Ave Maria: Sinatra and Pavarotti
Dad loved his Frank Sinatra music, so naturally did I as well...from the time I was a little girl.
My name, however, I was not so keen on as a kid. My only sister, ten years my senior, selected my name after Saint Maria Goretti.
Dad loved my name and the symbolism of the Blessed Mother that Maria represents. The song, Ave Maria, has been performed at more Church services that I can even remember. It was only at Dad's funeral in January, 1995 that I fell in love with the song. I have long since really come to love my name as well...!
Dust Yourself Off...
I am determined and I feel as though I always have been... I am hard working, motivated to see things through and demand much perfectionism from myself.
I have worked long and hard in my professional and personal life not to have the same high standards of others. Some days are easier than others quite frankly. And I believe I have my Daddy to thank for my mindset.
Dad expected our best and he decided his two girls were capable of only the best academically. I am ever grateful for this drive. At the time, I was frustrated at many a 'high 90' grade that did not meet the standards of a 'perfect 100'. Realistically, today, my drive has a perspective factor built in...which I am mostly OK with!
I'll Be Seeing You: Frank Sinatra
From my Dad...
I was moved to find one letter from Dad in Mom's treasure box. This was a rare gift. It was written when my Nanny (Mom's Mother, Estelle) died in 1982. Dad had written a sympathy note to Mom's four sisters...I think the contents give a true picture into Dad's soul.
Dear Mary Ruth, Kitty, Jeanne and Shirley,
Tonight I'm thinking of Nanny. I'm generally working this time of nite and I can't sleep. Nanny's home resting now, after 79 years of hard work, a little play, a little romance, a lot of worrying and never knowing how it was going to end. Everything was so quick. I got home about 3AM Tuesday and Maria was up and she told me nanny died. I felt so bad.
All I could do was think about Nanny. She really worked hard and didn't have too much help. She didn't have many comforts of this life so I am sure God will reward her in heaven. I'd always compared her to when I was growing up. No heat, no hot water, patched up clothes, not too much to eat but we all did OK. God took care of us. Just like all you girls. We all have so much now. We all have a lot to be thankful for.
Nanny helped all of you and she worried about all of you. She was really glad for all of you, to see you all do so good. When you come right down to it life is so short. We're only here for a little while, so we should all make the best of it. It's not right for any of us to fight or be angry with any of our loved ones.
I know Nanny is very happy tonight, knowing her five girls are together again. I have a good wife, four wonderful children and four grandchildren, all healthy and all doing good. I have a good job. I am happiest when I am working in the yard. I love pretty things. I love all of you and you are all welcome here any time. I have less than two years to work and would love to drive down to see you all when I retire.
Take care and may God bless you all. Excuse the spelling.
All my love,
On this Veterans' Day
Today, I wanted to share some wisdom from my Dad with you. This week I remember my Dad twice, on Veterans' Day for his service to our country and on November 16th, which would have been his 90th birthday.
Dad hated gifts by the way. He had a way of scolding us with every material possession he ever received, preferring instead 'prayers'.
I do believe he would be proud of my writing. Please check out my blog and ever growing collection of work at marcoujor's desk.