Another Father’s Day has come and gone and after a morning of being pampered at Happy Feet, I spent the evening with my family, barbecuing steaks and chicken. In between, I relaxed in my backyard with a Coors Light and a nice cigar my friend George gave me.
As most people my age do in 2018, I perused my Facebook newsfeed to see what others were up to. Facebook was flooded with pictures and tributes to dads, mostly those that have passed. Not to be outdone, I dusted off a black and white picture my mother took of me and my dad when I was about three and a half.
In a moment frozen in time, we were sitting on a bench at some western-themed attraction and I was holding a hot dog in my hand, with a wooden fence behind us surrounding a horse barn. My father is sporting a tiny cowboy hat on his head that I must have been wearing at some point during the day. It’s one of my favorite pictures of all time.
When posting it on my timeline, I added the text, “To all the dads out there, for taking the time to wear the little hat.” That’s when I realized I was crying.
My father has been gone for almost 10 years now and I’ve done my share of privately weeping about it over the years. I don’t think I loved or missed my father any more than anyone else who has lost theirs over time, so I’m not looking for any sympathy. Although I still weep when I see Cleon Jones catch the last out of the 1969 World Series, or Bob Nystrom score that Stanley Cup winning goal in 1980, I’m not sure where this wave of emotion came from, or why. I’ve seen this photo hundreds of times.
My dad always took an interest in what my brother and I were doing, and he was especially proud if we were ever recognized for anything we did in life. He would keep tiny newspaper clips if our names appeared, even for the most trivial things, like a Little League story blurb. I once wrote a freelance story about dog sled racing on Long Island that Newsday published back in 1980 (the only non-school article that I had ever gotten published) that he kept and would show people, like I had won a Pulitzer Prize. Sometimes I would get a letter to the editor published in Newsday or The Daily News, and that would go into his private stash.
I know how much he would have loved reading this column every week. I also know that he would have been one of my greatest sources of material. There is a little bit of him (and my mother) in almost every column I write.
When I found out I had been nominated for a 2018 Press Club of Long Island Award as a columnist a few weeks ago, I thought about how he would have reacted to the news. Everyone in his world would have gotten a phone call. Even though it was a great honor for me to take home third place against journalists from all over Long Island (including Newsday), I know he would have been so proud, his eyes would have filled with tears every time he told someone about it. Like father, like son, right?
It got me thinking about how, no matter what the situation was, he was always there for us. My father could always make things right. That day the picture was taken, my mother said I was being a real pill and didn’t want to wear the cowboy hat anymore. So being a good dad, he stepped up to the plate and wore the little hat for me. Not every father would do that, but mine did.
This one’s for you, Dad.
Paul DiSclafani has been a contributing columnist to Anton Media Group since 2016. He has called Massapequa home for 50 years.