There were three values my father cherished: the importance of family, hard work, and to always do your best.
Being from an American-Italian family meant Mangiamo together for the traditional family meals. The holiday meals were true extravaganzas. There were two tables. The adult table and the kid table. As we got older it was always fun to be in our twenties and still eating at the kid table with my brother, twin sister, and my cousins. These gatherings formed the foundation of what I ultimately wanted to share with my family. My dad in particular was so proud of the life his father gave him that he wrote a book “Papa’s Story”. The book is a true testament of a son’s gratitude:
“Papa’s story is a work of love and respect for our papa, and for all that he meant to our family.”
As I reflect on my dad’s relation with his father, my relation with my father, and my son’s relation with me, I believe the common theme was that as fathers we always wanted to provide the best life could offer for our children.
Though love of his family was my father’s most important value, hard work was a close second. We had weekly chores and on Saturday, the men in the family worked outside and the women inside until the house and yard were ready for inspection. The typical work day on Saturday was 7-11:30. When all the work was done my mom and sister made a wonderful lunch of salami, mortadella, sourdough bread, and a variety of cheeses.
My dad taught me his third value which was to do my work better that what was expected. This value of doing beyond what was expected has served my grandfather, my dad, myself, and my son well.
When my son was born, I was so happy. He brought such joy to our life – as did our two children who arrived after him. It seems like yesterday I was sitting in their beds at night reading “Good Night Moon” and “I’ll Love You Forever.” My son and I really did everything together and when it came to sports, he showed that amazing family work ethic. I loved coaching my son because he was so easy to coach. At times it was probably hard on him to be coached by me, because I never played favorites. I was so proud of him, and I know he knew it.
It was about three years ago when the wheels started to come off the car with my son. I knew something was not quite right, but I thought this is something teenagers go through. As I was looking forward to him finding the light at the end of the tunnel, I realized that the light in his life was getting extremely dim. Suffice it to say, there were dark things happening. Our father son bond was only linked by memories of our past relationship. We were losing our son and we felt helpless.
Telling our son to leave our family house was hard, but even harder, shortly thereafter, was telling him that he couldn’t come back. Hearing about him couch surfing was not easy either. Finally, after a series of events, he begrudgingly said he would go to New Life. As he went to New Life, Lex and I needed to heal too, so we went to Al Anon. As I look back, the day our son entered New Life was a watershed and transformative event that saved our family.
After almost 11 months of sobriety in New Life and myself in Al Anon, I really feel my son and I are rebuilding our father son relationship, a relationship that is built on integrity, the importance of family, and hard work. In closing, I can’t help but thank God and feel gratitude for the leadership of the New Life managers, the peer leadership offered by his brothers in the house, the inclusiveness and love provided by the families, the counseling provided by Irena and those at Clear, and the great advice and friendship offered by Kendra.