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Monday, October 28, 2013


My Dad:  the world never knew his heart.  Oh, people knew he was a hard worker, a man who would not hesitate to remove his shirt and give it to you if you were in need; they knew he loved his wife and his daughter and had a great sense of humor, made you laugh, and  had the ability to listen to your heart.

What they didn't know, was this:  He was an avid reader; mostly American History, the Bible, Poems That Touch the Heart, by Alexander and enjoyed books on conservative politics. William Buckley was his favorite editorial writer.  He read Edgar Guest's poems, Walt Whitman, and Carl Sandburg. He had a subscription to Poets and Writers...I found a few old, old copies long after he passed away. I found some writings of his, also:  it warmed my heart... 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 forty-five 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 behind our home, our Park.)   Yes, Dad made it into a park of his own.  He would never take credit, though, for any of its beauty …he would say with humility “I just plant the seeds and God does the rest.” 

I remember the newspaper covering used to protect 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, 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 finished his work.

Dad played the harmonica and sang in a rich baritone voice.  In fact, he sang hymns most of the time he was planting outside in his gardens or while he was doing masonry on the walks or walls surrounding the gardens or leading to the home. He sang while driving.  If I listen long enough, I can almost hear him singing, Shall We Gather by the River, Yes, I Know, Jesus Blood can make the vilest sinner clean, Redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb, The Old Account Was Settled Long Ago.  Whistling was another of his favorite pass-times.  So, music was always in his mind and heart.  One beautiful thing, among many, that he said to me is:  "You take words, put them down on paper, and make them smile.'

The following poem, Cheers, my tribute to him, was written for and read to my Dad long before he passed away...


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 - to 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

(My self-taught dad with a genius all your own)

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
Proclaim Christ's promise for an Eternity without pain.                           

Your loving daughter, Carole

 Carol T.Castagna
  ©  October 2012
  Library of Congress