Anniversaries are my totems. Although they are not animate objects or things, they still breathe. With each year that passes, they remind me to come alive.
My parents were late bloomers: marrying and starting a family at an older age way before it was fashionable. I never had the opportunity to dig deep into their childhood stories but what I’ve been able to glean second-hand is that they didn’t quite fit into the norm of everyday life, and instead carved a life for themselves as best as they knew how. Attuned to the beat of their own drums, they found each other through their love of dancing.
I see myself in that analogy.
A friend recently shared that I, too, had carved a different life for myself, unlike anyone else’s. And I guess in some ways that is true. I owe my parents, and especially my father everything for giving me the opportunity to create a path filled with possibilities of my own choosing.
Dad was the middle child, the first native-born generation Italian-American. Named for a grandfather no doubt, as was the tradition. He grew up in Brooklyn, attended public school and later enlisted. He was a numbers guy, and I often wonder who he would have become if he had the chance to go to University. Dad would have been 18 when he entered the army, donning fatigues at the height (1943) of the Second World War. He once told me how a deviated septum prevented his deployment, and although he served his time, it was never on foreign soil. I’ve always wondered what happened to his platoon, but he never spoke about it (or them) again.
Dad was a conundrum, sporting a protective, rough around the edges shell on the outside. But his insides were softer than that, something I learned first-hand in the years after Mom died. A product of the Great Depression he didn’t know how to show emotion, let alone say “I love you.” It took decades before he could audibly say it out loud, but he shared his love tangibly in every day.
If you took the time to discover his truth, you earned his respect and friendship, and his stories. The tales he shared with my friends were different from the ones he shared with me, and so each new interaction became a gift in its own way. I regret that I didn’t fall in love in his lifetime, I’m sure that mystery man would have accessed another chapter or two.
What I remember most about my dad is his love for the sea, tennis, pasta fagioli, and chocolate, his passion for math and conservative politics. Not necessarily in that order. He would stay up all hours to watch a tennis match, staring intensely at the screen, mirroring the vibrant emotion of the crowds. Dad was always on the prowl for pasta fagioli foraging restaurants in New York, and Italy for a bowl like Grandma Teresa used to make. And his love for dark chocolate was infinite. He once consumed a ballotin of Godiva (the first I was ever gifted) in one sitting. What I wouldn’t give to share a box with him today.
That which does not kill us makes us stronger.
Five years is both a long and short term of passage when you lose someone you love. There is no workaround to the wave of emotions you will feel. Grief doesn’t operate within a specific timeframe, some days will feel like you’re burrowing through marble, while others sand.
I stand by my belief that healing is the hardest part of the process; when you find the courage to move through it, you become a stronger version of yourself. Another lesson I learned from my Dad.
Vincent “Jim” Preziotti
b. 12 May 1925
d. 2 August 2013