March 20, 2023
Today is St. Joseph’s Day, the 19th of March. In Italy, it is celebrated as Father’s Day.
Italian men in my dad’s neighborhood including Uncle Archie second from the left, front row.
Father’s Day here in Italy makes me think of my father in the USA. My dad, Pasquale, will be 99 years old in July. I will be there to celebrate it with him. He has dementia but is still physically very well for his age. He has not lost his memory of his children but some of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren are not so rock solid in his memory.
My father is 100% Italian-American. He could technically be a dual citizen but has had no interest in that process. I received my Dual Italian citizenship through my father and his father. For that, I am very thankful.
Nonno and Nonna Ricci’s wedding.
Grandpa Ricci playing the accordion.
Dad in his 60s giving me a silly look.
My father and I have had a very tumultuous relationship. Growing up in the Italian neighborhood with so many older Italian men shaped my father. When I think of those first and second generation Italians, I realize they matured in the USA as not fully accepted by their contemporaries in Minnesota—mostly Scandinavian and German Americans—and lived by the lifestyle and mores of the poor, southern Italians from 1900 who emigrated to the US. That did not nurture a healthy relationship between my father and me.
Still, I inherited my father’s vocal cords and his rhythm. He taught me to sing and dance before I was 3 years old. I remember standing on the dining room table doing the jitterbug with him and laughing as he twirled me around. And I did the steps!
But he never accepted me singing in a band. Yes, that’s me.
This is just one of many conflicts between us.
Yet, now, it is a bridge. When I talk with my father now, we sing together. I love the old standards of his youth (as well as all contemporary and classical music) and even though I forget some of the words, he remembers them all. We sing swing tunes, Sinatra tunes, you name it. He knows them all and still has nearly perfect pitch. He is coherent while singing and it seems to awaken some of his brain that is slipping away—for just a little while.
He is also very proud of his service in the Navy in World War II. He knows all those songs too. And we talk about what life on the sea was like for him, things he never shared when we were younger.
In the photo above, my dad had leave. He returned home, shoveled snow and overstayed his leave!
Papa tells stories of his youth, such as train hopping with friends, family friends running from police, family stories, how he really did have holes in his shoes stuffed with newspaper, and so much more.
In so many ways, he is more human to me now.
Papa’s 97th birthday gathering. He is still a handsome man that ladies his age still chase.
Beyond the disparate areas in our experiences, our issues, after my mother’s passing 20 years ago, we have had a chance to know our Papa better. When I decided to move to Italy, leaving him behind after years of helping him at the beginning of his dementia, he gave me his blessing. He said I deserved to follow my dream of moving to Italy. I would have gone anyway. But his verbal support, when even friends and some family did not approve, is a comfort to me.
After all, his love of being Italian (He did not see any difference between being Italian and being Italian- American.) was a big part of my inspiration and love for Italy. There is a pride he and the neighbors carried in their hearts, even though they would never visit the homeland of their fathers, they loved Italy, its music, art, beauty and, of course, the food and wine.
Thank you, Dad, Papa, Pasquale, Patrick Ricci. Happy Italian Father’s Day.
And thank you all for sharing a bit more of my story, my life journey, and my Italian life.
Ciao for now!
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