Saturday, February 4, 2012

Notes from the Field: On Sixty Years

"I'm sixty years of age. That's 16 Celsius."
- George Carlin

As a disclaimer, I must say that if there is anybody that supports the phrase "age is but a number," it is my parents.  They have somehow managed to dodge that fateful bullet of aging and get better with time like bottles of wine.  So, I'm still a bit in shock to think that today is my father's 60th birthday.
When I was a child, I wanted to grow up to be my father.  Of course at the time, this was based on his ability to work from home, his lengthy list of world traveling and the fact that he still had a full head of dark hair. It wasn't until I grew up and actually landed in the exact same profession as him that it hit home: I would be unbelievably fortunate to find such a fate.  

I could write novels on the places my father traveled alone.  I remember searching for the smell of his cologne and crispness of his suit during the days, the weeks, the months at a time he spent on business in Venezuela, Brussels, Toronto, and India.  The returns were welcomed by our rugby games and swim meets, the nights watching the Yankees, the Saturday trips to fly fish on the Housatonic, and the fall evenings when he picked me up from swim practice with the top down in the convertible, the heat blasting, and Van Morrison's Moondance on the radio.  

Years later, when he started working from home, I thought, who has it better than this guy?  He could play golf and guitar whenever he wants! But he wasn't content to keep it at that.  He embraced his Italian instincts, and took over as head house chef, learning first from recipes, then taking flight on his own culinary adventures.  A martini in one hand, a plated feast in the other, and a cheeky quip on the tip of his tongue, he paints the portrait of a true man of style and grace, with a little kick of inappropriateness.  

My father went to school to be a teacher and came out a businessman.  Sometimes I chuckle at the idea of him teaching something like gym class.  But I don't have to think long and hard to realize that all those educational skills have actually paid off.  He is our greatest coach: in little league and in life. He has been looked to, by colleagues and friends, as the most trusted of mentors, guiding others through their careers not only to find their next move but also discover their truest potentials. And in his greatest role yet, he is a "Pop Pop" - one that doles out important lessons on how to make gorilla monster noises, play guitar and truly experience the beauty of life.

He is the only guy I know that made their child dance the "Hustle" at a Father/Daughter dance; he is the only one that showed up to Catholic School cross country practice in metallic royal blue spandex running tights.  He is the only businessman I've met that had books of his sayings compiled by his colleagues because they were just too good to let go.  He is the only man I know who would nearly put a tool through his hand just to open an oyster on the Cape or put together a baby carriage.  And he is the only man I know that would enthusiastically sing and dance to KC and the Sunshine Band with a handful of sugar packets to entertain his grandson at lunch.  These are some of the reasons we love him.    

My father was the first born son of a Staten Island Ferry boat captain and a saint.  He idolized his uncles, named both of his brothers and received an apple cake by his little Napoletana grandma for his birthday every year.  And so we celebrate his 60th birthday today with family, with friends and with apple pecan cupcakes topped with vanilla bean and nutmeg buttercream.

To my big Dadoo.  You are the first man I ever loved, a beacon of knowing light and the greatest model of a husband, father, grandfather and friend that anyone could ever have.  Happy 60th Birthday.  You are love; you are loved.

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