I am blessed to have had a father that knew the Lord and loved Him. Dad read the Bible early in the morning and sang hymns most of the day. He whistled hymns and played the harmonica and accordion by ear. I can still hear him singing if I listen closely enough; he sang all day long at different intervals of gardening, pruning his trees, working on a project around the home or driving…He had a rich, distinctive baritone voice that would have highlighted any choir. I am sure the Lord has a special place for him in Heaven’s Choir.
Dad won many medals for his artistic way of gardening. I’m sure if I entered some of his artwork in popular contests he would have placed or received Honorable Mentions. I recently learned, by finding a favorite book of his, that he had an interest in the Bonsai Tree, a miniature tree that grows in a small tray: Vincent, my husband and I visited Selby Gardens in Sarasota, Fl. on several occasions where the mature Bonsai, growing in the earth, are plentiful. Curiously, I also found a copy of Writer’s Digest dating back to 1979, the year of my divorce from my children’s father. I am not surprised that my dad was interested in writing. Dad was a poet at heart: aside from the Bible, I have a vivid memory of another book occupying the living room, Poems That Touch the Heart by A. L. Alexander. It ran the gamut of life-themes, like love, discord, marriage, death, sorrow, friendship, loyalty, decision-making, etc. I often found my dad reading this book, quietly enjoying the evening. This is where I first found Emily Dickinson’s, “If I Can Stop One Heart from Breaking.” I was around 12 years old. Dad had many interests and he nurtured them as time allowed.
Dad worked in the basement of the Bridgeport Brass Company in Bridgeport, a die-maker, a perfectionist at his trade….every day for 40 years. He worked a second job, when work was available, doing mason work, building fireplaces, walls, stone floors, sidewalks. He was artistic, multi-talented and worked under poor conditions to support his family. My father, a man with an extraordinary sense of humor, telling stories to the whole family about his days when he was a young man working on his brother, Lou’s small truck delivering milk, eggs, juice, cream. In those old days when no one knew the extent to which cholesterol could harm us…we just enjoyed the delectable flavors, blissfully, without a care.
We would laugh until our bellies hurt but dad kept on making us roar. My cousins who are far younger than I still recall the milk truck stories ‘Uncle George’ told and the laughter that followed. He was a raconteur at heart; we were on the edge of our seats waiting for the next detail! Dad was a ‘world-traveler’ said my cousin John, another only child, our mothers having been born sisters. Dad was an avid reader and traveled to the far corners of the world in his mind as he read. He would always say, “I have a great imagination.” This man, with a knack for beautifying everything he touched, from his rock-garden to his flagstone walk, merely accepted the fact that he worked at the Bridgeport Brass Company in a basement with no windows, cutting dies with precision for a living for forty years – and worked with a sense of joy as an artist after work, either sketching, or building stone walks and walls and fireplaces or tending the garden. (Our family called the landscaped acre in our back yard our “park.”) He would never take credit for any of its beauty though…he would say with humility “I just plant the seeds and God does the rest.”
I remember the newspaper covering for his head that he would fold in place, with the same precision he used when measuring a cement walk, when he was working outside on a very hot day. Dad fastidiously folded each corner to result in a raised oval covering above his ears. It shaded him from the sun …He would wear it while he was pouring cement in the hot sun, whistling all the while, (usually, a beloved hymn or Jimmie Crack Corn or Little Jimmie Brown, The Chapel Bells Were Ringing) enjoying what he was doing, proud of a job well done. I remember him fondly, loved him dearly and miss him terribly.
A Letter to Dad
Here’s to you, Dad
To your skills as a builder of houses and dreams
To your craft, etched with precision
To the work of your hands
Through the years of your life
Thank you for building my world.
Here’s to you, Dad
To your strength of character – to your acceptance of life in the raw
To your readiness to forgive – and your caution in judging
Thank you for the heart you try to conceal,
For letting me see your imperfections ~ thereby making it
Possible for me to embrace my own.
Here’s to you, Dad
To your love of life and God and people
To your spirit – to your sacrifice – to your sense of humor and the
Raconteur within you – to your quest for knowledge
Thank you for pursuing life in spite of its storms that rage
Thank you for teaching me to smile
Your heart is an open book – It teaches Humility and Hope and Courage.
The words speak echoes of truth and of Christ’s promise for an eternity without pain.
Your loving daughter, Carole
© 10/2012 Carol Castagna