This Father’s day, my mind does not go to my late father who literally ran himself into an early grave by overdoing anything and everything he did. God rest his soul; he lived addictively and it cost him his life. Life with my father may have to wait for another blog because he is actually not who I am thinking of on Father’s Day.
As I was washing dishes yesterday and thinking about Fathers Day, I noticed the clear, crisp water rushing out of the faucet and I was reminded of my mother’s father and the example he set for living a deliberate and gentle life. The running water reminded me of him because when he washed dishes in his tiny kitchen, he would set the water to a trickle so as not to waste it. This trickle of water greatly lengthened the time he spent at the sink, but he never seemed to care. He enjoyed himself in every moment of his life; whatever that moment happened to encompass.
My grandfather immigrated to America in his teens from a little mountainside town in Italy. He worked as a tailor and met my grandmother in a sweatshop in New York. He owned very little and learned at an early age to appreciate the gentle nuances of life: the fresh air he breathed, the warmth of the sun, the caress of a breeze, the taste of a succulent peach, the melodious song of a sparrow.
He approached his world deliberately and slowly. He would be the last person at the dinner table, chewing slowly and savoring every bite of his food. He would press a garment as if he were creating a sculpture, methodically steaming every inch of it so that it looked like a work of art when he was finished. He tended his garden for hours, gently pruning and watering his abundant tomato plants. He would repeat to me in Italian, “Piano, piano, carissima.” In this context, the word “piano” means “gently” in English. He wanted me to learn the value of slowing down and taking it all in.
My grandmother would become irritated at him and yell at him, “Andiamo! Subito!” “Let’s go! Hurry!” She would sometimes say to me in exasperation, “How can I live with a man who goes so slowly?” I would laugh because her approach to life was the opposite of his. How they died provides a significant example of this: my grandmother died in her early eighties of a massive stroke and my grandfather was well into his nineties when he passed. He died predictably in his sleep after giving his nurse a goodnight kiss on the cheek.
My mother’s father approached life humbly, gently and deliberately. He noticed the details around him and took the time to appreciate all the tiny treasures in life that many of us multitaskers fail to notice in today’s electronic jungle. He was impressed by the beauty in all things and he experienced his life with patience and gratitude.
Happy Fathers Day to fathers everywhere. I dedicate this day to my mother’s father. My wish for you, if only for this one day: “Piano, piano.”