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Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Father's Day Tribute




Dad was a practical man.  I remember 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 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 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, had fun with words. 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.  One place he wanted to see before he died was Banff:  he never traveled there due to mom’s fear that she may not have been able to deal with his cancer while far away from home. 

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 he adored her since their high school years, so he never joined the choir. He focused on the Lord and the beauty of the earth 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 for 40 years.  He worked a second job doing mason work, building fireplaces, walls, stone floors, 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 forty 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 would never take credit for any of its beauty though…he would 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 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.  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

(My self-taught dad with a genius all his 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 of Christ's promise for an Eternity without pain.                           

Your loving daughter, Carole

 c 6/2014 Carol A. Castagna
Photos  Carol A. Castagna
Sketch by the late, George Turiano, Author's father