Saturday, August 11, 2018

Love you, Dad

My wonderful FIL went into palliative care on Wednesday morning and passed away on Thursday night, 20 years and two days after his only granddaughter was stillborn. :(   He was 89.

We thought he might put up a fuss about going to the hospital, but apparently he said, "Yeah, maybe it's time to go see the doctor..." (!). (He did start asking, after a few hours, when he was going home again.)

We went to see him on Wednesday night and again Thursday afternoon. He opened his eyes once while we were there, but was mostly asleep/out of it and did not speak. The doctor told us he didn't think he'd make it to Monday -- but we didn't expect him to go THAT fast. Two of dh's cousins were there to see him and called BIL to tell him FIL was gone. They told us he went peacefully.

FIL came of age in the ruins of post-WWII Italy, and came to Toronto in the 1950s in search of work and a better life. He spent the next 30 years working as a bricklayer and contractor, as the city grew and flourished. (Driving around the city, he would often point out the many buildings and housing developments he'd worked on to us.) He lived in a house owned by his cousin, who'd arrived in Canada a few years earlier, with a dozen other Italian immigrant relatives (and one bathroom), until he'd saved up enough money to buy his own a house a few years later (and then welcomed other family members to live with them until they too could afford their own house).

Like other Italian immigrants of the time, he & his relatives were viewed with suspicion by the citizens of the conservative, WASP-dominated Toronto of the time. They did not speak English; they were Catholic; their food smelled funny; they drank a lot of wine (which they made themselves). They were harassed by the police; their employers used them as cheap labour and took advantage of them. (Hmmm, why does this all sound familiar...??) Their children have their own stories to tell:  growing up in the 1960s & 70s (in the era of "The Godfather"), dh was subjected to ethnic slurs at school;  my SIL remembers throwing away the panini lunch her mother had made her when she got to school, because the other kids made fun of her for it (it wasn't Wonderbread!). (Of course, paninis are sold everywhere these days in cafes for ridiculous prices...!)

They persevered, and their families flourished. Everything we have today, we have because of FIL.

He was a small man, shorter than me, and wiry, but he had a huge heart and a personality to match.  He was kind and generous (the first time I met him, he handed me a $50 bill -- a small fortune for a poor student in 1983 -- and told me to buy myself a cup of coffee). He had a wonderful smile. He was Italian, but as the French say, he had a "joie de vivre" -- an exuberance, a zest for life. He loved to sing -- loudly! (he sang to us a little as he lay in bed at home, near the end, which made tears spring to my eyes) -- and would embarrass his sons by getting up & singing with the band at weddings when they were growing up.  He loved his garden (which he only gave up about two summers ago) and his espresso coffee, which he still drank until almost the very end, even when he'd lost his appetite for food. He loved his family, especially his grandsons, and got a huge kick out of watching them grow taller and taller until they towered over him.

Ti amo, Dad. We will miss you. Give Katie a hug from me.

BIL, FIL & dh, taking a walk while at Older Nephew's engagement party.
August 2014. 

8 comments:

  1. I’m so sorry Loribeth. Wrapping you all in love.

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  2. I am so sorry, Loribeth.

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  3. This post brought tears to my eyes. What a beautiful tribute for an incredible man. So hard working and generous. And family oriented. Reminds me of my Grandad. Thank you for sharing a bit about your FIL and his life so that I could get to know him a little. I will be holding you, your husband, and all of your FIL's loved ones in my heart. <3

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  4. Even though I knew he'd gone, I still got tears in my eyes at the end of this. It was lovely to read something of his life, his history, and what he passed on to your DH. Thinking of you all.

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  5. Dear Loribeth, you wrote such a moving tribute, it brought tears to my eyes too. I'm so sorry for your losses, I think of you and send you love from... beautiful Italy (where I'm spending some days).

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  6. I'm so sorry for your family's loss. You've done a wonderful job memorializing your father-in-law here. Your writing brings to life both the small and large moments that make a life vivid. Thinking of you.

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  7. I am so sorry for your loss, Loribeth. What a beautiful tribute to your father in law. Your last sentence made me cry. Sending you love at this time of sadness and remembering a life well lived.

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  8. He sounds like a lovely person to have had for a FIL - I'm glad he went peacefully. I hope he's enjoying meeting his lovely granddaughter. I'm sorry for your loss.

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