Today would have been my Dad's 87th birthday. He passed away a few months shy of 85. He was not famous, so you'll never have heard of him, though had he been you'd know the following and probably every negative thing he ever did in his life that the press could dig up...but I digress.
At the bottom of my post is his obituary, and it's amazing how they can so easily reduce a mans entire life down to nothing but a few lines of text.
My Dad was so much more. Born of immigrant Italian parents with a dad who truly lived by the philosophy of "Spare the Rod, spoil the Child!" Sadly, I don't know too many details of his early life, other than some excellent war stories he told me from WWII. My mom would have been shocked to learn he 'adopted a couple of families overseas and lived with them, but according to him there was a lot of that in war torn Europe at the time. He flew in bomber aircraft a few times, but I don't recall which ones, he might have shot and killed an enemy soldier; he was one of a few that show at one by their camp and killed him. I have many pictures I got from his last apartment that show him on assorted army bases and places with people I don't know, only a precious few have any writing on the back to lend a clue.
As a father he too was tough but fair, and when my mom, who was schizophrenic, was in her good frame of mind I know she reined him in a lot of times and over the years taught him to be more open with his feelings.
I remember as a young boy going down to the freight yards in Newark with my Dad and his dad, and my uncle where we would by crates of grapes as they came off of the train. These would be packed in our station wagons and we would head by to grandfather's house where we would make wine. And no, we did not dance on it with our feet, they had an electric grinder and a press. I remember the occasional glass of wine but it was not until many years later that I developed a taste for the homemade version they made, which was far stronger than the wines you would buy on the shelf.
I remember going down to Ting-a-Ling's in Newark for Italian Ice, and I remember trips to Jimmy Buff's for Italian Hotdogs in Newark as well. I also remember the Short Stop diner by the Parkway overpass in Bloomfield. My dad would often bring home burgers and fries or their awesome bacon and egg sandwiches.
I remember something that appears to be totally alien to my kids, and that's doing REAL chores, particularly on weekends. There was no "Well I'm off to hang out with friends" Saturday morning. There was grass to be moved (with an old style push mower"), leaves to rakes, projects to be done, painting in the house, etc. on most weekends. plus, Dad's car needed to be washed. Sunday's there was church followed by classes. One memory of doing the chores comes to mind was my older brother was picking on me and I said "You'd never do that is Dad was looking!". he called over "Hey Dad!", my dad turned around and he slammed me! Ah! brotherly love!
I remember at Christmas time decorating the second floor front porch which has windows around the front and sides, where would would make holiday pictures on the glass using stencils and Glass Wax, and then put up lights around each window. We also decorated a little artificial tree and put it on a table int he center of the front window. The house looked pretty cool those years from the outside, plus you could the the full sized tree from one of the side windows if you walked a bit further down the street.
There are so many memories I have of my dad, and so much I just do not know about him. One of the most profound ones, which also shows his level of caring, was around the holidays. There were some years where he worked two jobs just so he could get us Christmas presents.
My parents had a very rocky marriage because of my mom problems, and let's just say mental health care 40 years or so ago was nightmarish compared to today. They finally got to a point where my dad was going to divorce her, and I only mention this to show his character. Those who know me my mom turned ill and wrestled with multiple sclerosis for over 10 years, and she had a very rare variant where she experienced constant pain which ranged from bad to very, very bad. She also had lung cancer her final years due no doubt to many years of smoking.
My dad, who was well along with his plans to divorce my mom, dropped those plans and for the next 10 years took care of my mom to the point of having to sell our big house in Glen Ridge because of the costs associated with her care ran down his insurance and caused her to spend a lot of time at home. My poor mom who was so bad we had a lift device to get her in and out of her bed and into her chair by the bedroom window where she spent so many days looking outside.
But my dad stayed, and took care of her. Down the road I moved back into his house and helped as well, and there was a period there where my brother was living there. I was so impressed how he never abandoned her, and I'll never forget the night she died, on my first wedding anniversary, how he cried. His raking sobs at her passing will be forever in my memory. There is no doubt in my mind that in spite of their problems he loved my mother deeply.
When I got married, we moved from his house in Glen Ridge to a mother/daughter house in the country, and he took the smaller side. I remember my son Chris and he were very close, with Chris often running over there to pop-pop's side every morning when he got up. Those were some good years with many memories such as Chris and Scott riding on the tractor with him when he cut the grass. No hand mower for the country place!
Then my dad hit a period that I call his third childhood, he asked my X and I to move out because he was going to sell his house, and get a small apartment as he needed more money, and it was going to sell fast. We sold so many of our possessions, including my truck, to do that and ended up in a small house behind Budd Lake where our daughter Danielle was born. It took me a few years to get over the hurt from that time, but, family is family!
Then I relocated for my job, and I saw my dad an average of once a year. His health had started declining somewhat before we moved but he was always as active as he could be. He never did make it out to visit us in the 8 years we were here before he passed. I know he would have loved the Kalamzoo Air Zoo and I had planned to take him there.
I could go on and on, I started this last night in fact....but suffice it to say there was so much more of my dad than what is said below:
Published: Friday, August 15, 2008, 8:35 AM Updated: Friday, August 15, 2008, 8:42 AM
Enrico M. Falco, 84, of Mansfield Township died July 27, 2008 at his home after a long illness. Born Dec. 16, 1923 in Belleville, he was a son of the late Joseph and Angelina Falco.
Mr. Falco lived in Glen Ridge before moving to Mansfield Township 29 years ago. He was retired after many years as a tool and die maker, most recently with Chatham Precision Tools.
He was a member of the Great Meadows Busy Seniors, the Sunshine Club of Blairstown and the seniors club at Ss. Peter & Paul Roman Catholic Church in Great Meadows. Mr. Falco was an Army veteran of World War II.
Surviving are his companion of many years, Julia Pirrello; two sons, Rick of Millington and Christopher of Grand Rapids, Mich.; a sister, Kay Testa of Parsippany; and three grandchildren.
A funeral Mass was held Aug. 1 at Ss. Peter & Paul Church. Entombment was at Hollywood Memorial Park, Union.