(Fifty Nifty Years in the United States Series)
The kids called him “Poppy.” Lee Anne’s dad and a guy I truly admire. I gained so much from him and from his family.
Of course, a wife and three children and so much more. He was always looking and would have the final words of wisdom on nearly any topic.
To say that Al was old school is of course the best way to describe him. A man who did not say sauce, but always wanted more gravy on his pasta. I am grateful for so much and so many memories.
Some of the stories are told and re-told. The trip to the Japanese hibachi place. “Someone needs to tell these people who won the war.” The Easter in Flagler with the stories of the “Hill.” Or the infamous dinner with the vice guy for Los Angeles County Sheriff's who was on the hunt for bookie operation not far from the house on Olive Street. Talk about cool and collected. I was sweating and Al never even blinked an eye.
I remind Lee Anne of how old tree’s can break in the wind and young trees will always bend. It seems fitting to share this story on Father’s Day. The biggest lesson I got from him was that that he instilled in his family. My experience with unconditional love came from Al and his family and Lee Anne.
It was never something that occurred to me naturally. I still struggle in many ways. From the very first holiday dinner that I spent at the Olive Street home (Temple City, California), it was evident. That next Thanksgiving in 1990 I was invited and just a little nervous. Lee Anne’s had already introduced me to him. “This is my dad. He’s Italian. From Rhode Island.” The implication was there. I got a handshake and a hug.
After dinner Lee Anne and I sat on the porch and I asked about why everyone was angry at each other. She had no idea what I meant. I explained that at dinner it was loud and they were all talking over one another and it seems that everything was an argument. She laughed a little and explained that was just a typical dinner time discussion during a family holiday. We walked in the house and everyone was still at the table and dessert was served and there were smiles and more talk. It had not occurred to me that this is what family could be like.
A family that could love and laugh and argue and enjoy one another and shout a little. I am blessed for the lesson and I am forever grateful for Al and Anne and Michelle, and Pam and Robin and Stephanie (see Steph, I mentioned you) and Aunty Ro and the husbands and nephews and Samantha and all the rest of the family that welcomed me and helped me learn how to love unconditionally. Thanks Lee Anne for sharing this family that is so rich and never seemed to question that I would fit in.
Thank you for the 30 years as I have journeyed along my 50 plus years in these United States. I can’t think of a better person to honor today and thank for being “Poppy” to my kids.