My father was the type of man who liked to have fun, even if the joke was on him. I’m guessing the picture shown above ⬆️ was taken at least 60 years ago but I remember it like it was yesterday. While my mother, sister and I were occupied with other things, Dad quietly went around the house collecting stuff – in this case a scarf, a yarmulke from a friend’s wedding and our family Bible. He then sat there not saying a word until one of us noticed and we all cracked up. I’m pretty sure at that point he started chanting which made the whole scenario even funnier. I showed this pic to my husband last night and even he cracked up. Yes, dad, your legend lives on!
Dad’s jokes weren’t always funny and he didn’t have much of a filter. I remember a family friend was complaining that she needed to lose weight. Dad told her she looked fine just the way she was which would have been totally acceptable if he’d left it at that but he had to add that she was “pleasingly plump“. Our friend was not happy with that description and huffed off, angry and embarrassed. Meanwhile dad couldn’t understand what he said that was so bad. He’d often do things without thinking them through like the times he’d invite people over for dinner and fail to tell my mother until a couple hours before their guests arrived, usually resulting in mom reacting sorta like this:
She never really hit him over the head with a frying pan but she wanted to – lots of times. But that wouldn’t have stopped dad from telling the same old joke about the canary who ran out of gas or thinking he was entertaining countless waitresses by ordering an Al Pacino instead of a cappuccino which always resulted in an eye roll or a blank stare.
Speaking of blank stares, some of my relatives were hard nuts to crack and dad’s cornball jokes were definitely not appreciated. This was a particularly tough crowd; they look like they’re at a funeral instead of a bridal shower. ⬇️ And why is the woman on the left clutching her purse so tightly? She’s in my parent’s house; who’s gonna steal it? Probably fight or flight reaction due to Dad’s jokes.
What’s with all the purse clutching? Must be a generational thing. Man, I would have loved to have been around when this next photo was taken. ⬇️ Talk about surreal! The parents look like very nice, normal people but totally confused and amused at the same time; I think those guys had that effect on all of us. (I was going to say they looked “Dazed and Confused” but that was done by a much better band – no offense.)
My dad was a good guy who meant well and wouldn’t hurt a fly. He was all talk and no bite, like the time he convinced an art auctioneer that he was “connected“. The poor guy was wetting his pants and falling over himself to make sure ‘Don Vito‘ was satisfied and there would be no retaliation. Mom just rolled her eyes and called dad “stunad“.
Dad had a lousy head for figures so, naturally, he volunteered to be the church treasurer. He then proceeded to botch the books so terribly, the Elders of the church came to our house looking very serious and officious in their black suits and asked dad how he managed to screw up the numbers so badly. Even dad couldn’t figure out what he’d done wrong; he was totally flustered and way over his head. Everyone felt sorry for him but business is business and dad was officially removed him from his position.
Dad was an immigrant from Sicily who taught himself to speak, read and write English entirely on his own. And he barely had an accent. His biggest achievement in his eyes was being able to do the New York Times crossword puzzle in ink! Everyone loved my dad and it gave him so much pleasure to entertain his friends and spend time with his family.
Times were tough, often heartbreaking. In 1943 mom and dad lost their first born and only son, the brother I never knew, when he was only 2-years-old. Baby Frank passed away on New Year’s Eve; my parent’s never celebrated or went out on New Year’s Eve ever again after that. Then my dad got drafted and was sent overseas. I can only imagine what Father’s Day must have been like that year. Talk about rough times!
Now that I’m older and hopefully wiser, I regret being embarrassed in front of my friends when dad told a corny joke or sang a silly song. I wish I didn’t think of him as a clown or a buffoon; no one else saw him that way (except my sister) and he made a lot of people happy. I was young and stupid; I didn’t realize at the time everything he did was with good intentions.
My grown sons remember my dad, or ‘Papa’ as they called him, but I have four grandchildren who never knew him. I hope when my granddaughters start dating, my sons will wait up for them to come home from their dates, just as my dad did right up till the night before my wedding.
When you’re young you think you have all the time in the world, then you start to realize the older you get the faster time goes by. There are plenty of things I wish I could go back and do over; I can’t. I just have to believe that my dad knew I loved him even when I didn’t show it. I hope he’s proud of the person I have become. I’m proud of my dad and I miss him. I know he’s listening so “Happy Father’s Day, dad! I love you!”
Dedicated to my father, Vito Schembre, July 14, 1915 – August 1, 1998
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