Like many others, I too was a child of the divorce age. I am the daughter of an Air Force pilot, a military brat, born in the US, raised in Milan, Italy, my father was stationed at a nearby airbase. My mother said that I spoke perfect Italian, and to this day, I can still read it and speak it, along with other languages that I learned from our many stays at bases here and there. I remember so much of that gorgeous city, I still have a necklace that was given to me as a small child there, a memento, treasured, often worn with a silver Eiffel tower charm necklace. I don’t remember too much else of my childhood, from there, I recall living with my Grandmother, Grandfather, Mom, and seeing my Aunt and Uncle, it was what one would call a typical European family, meals around the table, lots of helping to cook in the kitchen, holidays, and whatnot. My neighborhood at the time was Long Island, NY. My Mother worked in finance, as did my Grandfather, he was one of the original founders of a bank and worked with a rather famous man who was the forefather of a stock firm. I remember talking with my Dad on the phone, but it was few and far between, he had another family and well, I was too young to understand the particulars of that at the time. Growing up without a traditional family was frowned upon at that time, and so, my Grandfather stood in many, many times. Even though, I still carry so much of my father in me. I have his eyes and his hair and I’ve inherited his love of aircraft and flying. When I was much younger, I used to love to go to airports and watch the planes land and take off. My Grandparents traveled all over the world and I was always there at a gate somewhere, hugging them goodbye and greeting them when they returned.
My Grandmother and Grandfather were married for well over fifty years. It wasn’t perfect, they were each stubborn in their own way. I don’t think he quite knew what to say to a young woman, he was a quiet man and kept a lot inside, he was very dedicated to his job and I think I disappointed him when I chose not to go into finance for a career, I wanted to go to fashion college. I have many memories of him taking me to the beach, I learned how to go fishing for blue crabs, we would go down to Jones Beach and Montauk Point, the family would go to the Catskills and summers were spent out in the Hamptons or Martha’s Vineyard. Yup, I was a Hampton’s girl, summer romances, and all. My Grandpa taught me how to check oil, fix a flat, all about carnauba wax, you know, the important stuff, but most of all, he taught me the importance of someone who was committed to his family, and who didn’t walk away when things got tough. He had his ways, but he loved my Grandmother and stuck around, even if it was just tinkering in the garage or planting a flower garden for my Grandma, or watering said garden, he was there, present, and while I didn’t really have the type of support a girl needs, being there gave that balance to whatever I perceived as family.
I mentioned in a previous story, that there was a lot of racism going on in the family, and of course, eventually, I left as one does to go to school and live on my own. I choose to look back on the more pleasant moments, but I do remember the lessons, the sworn oaths of what never to allow in my life. What I would never want to be.
The one thing he taught me was that real men choose to stay.
Father, I never really knew you.
It takes more than a name to make a man.
They say I have your hair and your eyes,
and I wonder, what would I have been if you stayed.
I still have your love of planes,
And it’s funny to this day, I always want to get lost among the clouds.
I’ve had to live my life without you,
and I hope somehow I’ve made you proud.
We never had those father-daughter dances,
you never taught me all your ways.
But there’s one thing I learned from you,
real men should never walk away.
The above poem was featured in the publication P. S. I Love You.