DAD WAS A PRACTICAL MAN
Dad was a practical man. I remember his telling me that he would carry an umbrella to work every day, just in case it rained, for he had to walk a few blocks from the car to the Bridgeport Brass Company in Connecticut, where he spent forty years. I can’t remember that he ever missed a day of work. He had been caught in a few downpours of rain and decided that he did not intend to have that happen to him ever again, thus, the umbrella.
My dad suffered from migraine headaches and Major Depression…there were no effective medications for him, unfortunately. As a result, he endured the pain of migraine headaches for most of his life. My dad busied himself with his garden, made the backyard (almost an acre) of our home in Nichols, Ct., resemble a park. He won many medals for his artistic way of gardening. 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 Bonsai 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; I just wish I had known so that we could have commiserated, communicated and had fun with words. He read one book after another. We had a lot more in common aside from mom’s illness but our common ground was never realized. I often think about all the conversations we might have had about our interests, things to do and places to see…but whenever we had an opportunity to talk to each other, we talked about Mom – how to “fix” her and how to deal with our own feelings of helplessness and frustration regarding her behavior: mom had a BiPolar Disorder, undiagnosed. One place he wanted to see before he died was Banff: he never traveled there. Mom feared for dad’s life in the event that something went wrong. She thought she may not be equipped to handle the situation so far away from home; there was no convincing her, otherwise.
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 had a distinctive baritone voice that would have highlighted any choir but mom wanted him by her side and suffered from unfounded fears of other women’s flirtations with him. Dad adored her since their high school years, so he generally conceded to her wishes; he never joined the choir. He continued to focus on the Lord and the beauty of the earth during gardening or driving and dismissed that which he could not control. I am sure the Lord has a special place for him in Heaven’s Choir.
Dad worked in the basement of the Bridgeport Brass Company in Bridgeport, a die-maker, a perfectionist at his trade….every day. I don’t believe he ever called out, ill. He worked a second job, when work was available, doing mason work, building fireplaces, walls, stone floors and 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.
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; you were on the edge of your seat 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 outdoors, 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 all those years – and worked almost incessantly as an artist after work, either sketching, or building stone walks and walls and fireplaces or working in his garden. (Our family called the landscaped acre in our back yard our “park.”) He never claimed credit for any of its beauty though…he’d 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’d wear it while he was pouring cement in the hot sun, whistling all the while, (usually, Jimmie Crack Corn or Little Jimmie Brown -the Chapel Bells Were Ringing) enjoying what he was doing, proud of a job well done when he completed his day’s task. I remember him, fondly.
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.
Your heart’s words speak echoes of truth and of Christ’s promise for an Eternity without pain.
for an Eternity without pain.
Your loving daughter, Carole
© 10/2012 Carol Castagna