Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

Dad and me
It's Father's Day this Sunday. I just wanted to wish all the Dads out there a Happy Father's Day! Especially my own. Happy Father's Day, Dad!

My Dad has always been there for me throughout the years. He's a quiet man. My Mom was the disciplinarian, the main caregiver. Dad had more of a background, supporting role. I used to tell people that my Dad never said a word and my Mom never stopped talking! And I fell somewhere in the middle. Dad never said too much. Mind you, he probably couldn't get a word in edgewise with my Mom around! Mom was the vocal one. Dad never found it easy to communicate. To this day I haven't had many conversations with my dad that weren't about the weather or the car. Never about anything terribly personal. I know that it's just his way. He always had a difficult time expressing himself. 

Dad,  May and I and our bunnies!

My Mom told me that my Dad adored us as babies and spent a lot of time with us when we were small children, but as we got older, he had a harder time relating to us, talking with us. My father was always shy and not overly social.

He talked to my brother a lot more because they could bond over "the game" -- talking about hockey or football. I was never much of a sports fan.  One of the only times I ever saw my father cry was after a Toronto Maple Leafs game. "They tried so hard!" he lamented. The Leafs hadn't won a Stanley Cup in ages and I guess there was one game where they came really close. I had a hard time understanding how someone could get that upset over hockey. But then I cry at TV commercials now! I guess people feel involved rooting for their own home team. Some people really take sports seriously. I remember one time when we were downtown Toronto, in little Italy, visiting relatives and the streets were pandemonium because Italy had won the soccer game. People were honking, waving Italian flags, cheering. Dad honked along with them. Italians certainly know how to celebrate!

I love this photo! That's Dad at the front in a blazer.

My Dad's family moved to Canada from Italy when he was 12 years old. He began working at a young age to help the family out. A very hard worker, all through the years, he supported us all while my Mom stayed home to look after us. He stayed with the same company for over 40 years until he retired. He had a very strong work ethic. In all that time he never took a sick day and I don't think he ever said no to overtime when they asked him. They couldn't have found a more loyal, dependable employee than my Dad. Even the day he had his stroke, his biggest concern was that he was going to miss work! He still wanted to go in. He couldn't talk properly and could barely move, paralyzed on the left side. "No Dad! You have to go to the hospital!" It took a long time and a lot of physio and speech therapy before he was himself again. But he was such a trooper, he could be on his deathbed and not call in sick!

Mom and Dad wedding photo -- so glamorous!
Being a middle child, I was somewhat competitive with my siblings for my parents' attention. When I was younger it seemed to me that I was the least loved. My older sister was special because she was the first born. My brothers were special because they were the babies. I knocked myself out to get attention. I had to be the best at everything. Win every race, get gold stars, straight As and awards all through school. Get up on stage and sing and dance and act and show what I could do. No matter what I did, it didn't seem to be enough. My mother could be negative and critical (though she did occasionally say she was proud of me when I would do something special in school) and my dad just never really said anything.

It wasn't until I was in high school and had my first boyfriend that I got my first compliment from my father. I was telling my Mom that my boyfriend had called me beautiful. It was a revelation to me because I had always felt like an ugly duckling. A skinny, awkward, pale, freckled little girl, I had gotten picked on and bullied in school. As I got a bit older and started wearing makeup, becoming more fashionable, I started to get more positive attention. I wasn't sure I had transformed into a swan or just an ugly duck with eyeliner and good fashion sense! It was strange though because I even had strangers start to approach me and ask if I was a model. I had people tell me how graceful I was and ask if I was a ballerina. It was bizarre to me. All the compliments couldn't seem to undo the damage of those early adolescent years being picked on, but it was nice to hear. I always felt like my whole family was attractive except for me.

Anyway, so I'm telling my Mom about my boyfriend calling me beautiful and didn't realize that my Dad was within earshot. I was so used to telling my Mom everything that I often wouldn't notice my Dad was there listening and paying attention until he'd make a comment. He suddenly said to me, as though it were obvious, "Well, you ARE beautiful." I was stunned. I started to cry and ran to hug him. He had never given me a compliment before. In my whole life it was the first time I could remember him saying something nice to me. I know it's a Dad thing. I had talked to many others who said they went their whole lives without their fathers saying "I love you," or "I'm proud of you." Nurturing, expressing emotion, showing affection seems to be much easier for mothers.

At my graduation from U of T

When I went to university, I specialized in English, had a Major in Drama and a Minor in Art History. University was much more difficult than High School. My grades slipped from 90%s to 80%s but I worked very hard and still managed to maintain an A average and to win scholarships all through. I guess to ensure that you would be a well-rounded person, even if you were an Arts major, they made you take at least one science course and a social science course. I took Psychology and Sociology. I LOVED the Psychology class. It was fascinating and I excelled in it. I even got a personal note from the Professor saying that I was in the top of a class of over 2,000 students and that he was looking forward to working with me in the future. It was sad to me because I knew that I wouldn't be going on in it. I didn't have the prerequisite maths and sciences from high school that you were supposed to have (I was never a fan of math and stopped taking it as soon as I could. I stopped taking science when it branched into biology because I refused to dissect a frog!) I had just taken Psych 101 to have my science credit. Sociology was also interesting and I did very well. One of my essays, the prof read to the entire class. He said that it was brilliant because it wasn't worded like a scientific essay. It was conversational in tone (I just write the way I speak, I tell the story. Whatever it may be) but he felt had some very keen observations and insights. I blushed at the time and I felt like the class glared at me because they had researched and worked very hard to turn in papers that were pure science. I just had fun with it and wrote from my gut and I got an A+. 
I'd be walking in no time...
There was one project for that Sociology class that made me very uncomfortable. We had to interview our parents. We had to ask them what their impressions, hopes and dreams were for us when we were born and when we were infants compared to how we turned out as adults. Talking to my Mom was never a problem. She could talk a blue streak about anything and I was always very close to her. (Even though we argued as well!) My father and I never really talked and I felt very awkward asking him anything personal. (Discussing anything other than the car, the weather.) I kept putting it off but I finally had to get the project done so I forced myself to confront him while he was puttering in the kitchen, putting away groceries. So I asked him, awkward as it was, what he thought of me as a baby and how that translated into how I turned out. "I knew you were smart," he replied, "as a baby you were walking and talking faster than anyone. You always did well in school. And now sure enough here you are, going to university, a real smartie." I teared up and hugged my Dad. He had never called me smart before. I loved Smarties even more after that day! I told my mother about it and she said that of course my Dad was proud of me. I was the first one to go to University on either side of the family. My Father didn't tell me he loved me or that he was proud but he quietly did whatever he could to support me. He actually went on straight nightshifts while I was pursuing my four year Bachelor of Arts, just so that I could have the car to commute to school (the Erindale Campus of University of Toronto, which was only about 10-15 minutes from where we lived.) He made sacrifices and worked hard to make a better life for us. He didn't know how to say the things that he felt. But the love was always there. I was grateful to my Sociology professor for making us do that essay. To hear my Dad say that I was smart, that I had made him proud was one of the best moments of my life. Better than an audience of roaring applause. Better than any A or award. I needed his approval, his attention, his love. In that moment, it felt as though I had it.

It wasn't always easy relating to my Dad but I know that I did get some things from him. He always had a sense of humour and liked to crack jokes. He thought that I got my singing talent from him (though my Mom says I got it from her.) Both my Dad and my Mom always loved to dance. They even met at a dance. I always loved visiting my Dad's family. The Pinciveros were a fun, boisterous, loving bunch. Authentic Italian cuisine, the best meals I ever tasted were at my Nona and Nono's house before they passed away and at my Uncle's place. I always loved going there and having them make a fuss of me, calling me "Bella!" and telling me "Mangia, mangia Anna Maria!"

Pisterzo, Italy

When I had gone to Europe with my boyfriend of nine years, part of our sojourn in Italy included staying with my Aunt, Zia Romana in her apartment in Latina, just outside Rome and staying at her house in Pisterzo, a village in Italy, up on a mountain, where my father was born. It was so beautiful I never wanted to leave. A quaint little town without cars. It was a simple but a beautiful life. My Aunt Romana made homemade pasta to die for. I got to see the house where my Dad was born, walk the narrow cobblestone streets, see the town Church that the family attended, and look out at the edge of the cliff at the countryside below. It made me feel closer to my Dad seeing where he had come from.

I love my Italian heritage and am proud to be a Pincivero. I took a year of Italian in High School and loved it. It's a beautiful, musical, romantic language. The perfect language. Once you know the rules of pronunciation you realize that everything is spelled exactly the way it sounds, unlike English! I should have kept up with it. I learned some French too through grade school and High School. I did so well I even skipped a grade in it. I always had a passion for words. Learning a new language is like discovering new treasures. Magical new means of expression. I dated someone who spoke Arabic once and learned a few words and phrases. He said my pronunciation was perfect. When I dated a Hungarian last year we even co-wrote a song in Hungarian -- "Szeretlek." He and his friends said I had a real affinity for the language. One said that I spoke Hungarian with the voice of an angel and that I must have been Hungarian in another life. I also wrote a song in Spanish inspired by a trip to Samana, Dominican Republic -- "Deseo." (Videos on Youtube for both songs, if you're curious!) I would love to speak several languages fluently. Maybe one day...

In  Pisterzo

Dad as a boy -- what a cutie!

Anything I knew about my Father's heritage, I had learned from Mom. She was the one who told us the stories of his childhood, which of course she had gleaned from him over the years. I always wondered if she got things right. My Dad's family came from humble beginnings. His first toy was a rag ball that my grandfather had made. He was a tailor. My dad always had a fear of the water. He had a few accidents in the water. One time he dove off a cliff and hit his head on some rocks. My Mom said she asked him why he would have been cliff-diving anyway when he didn't know how to swim. His reply was that he "knew how to dive!" He was in a boating accident when he was 12 years old and drowned. He was under the water a long time. It was a miracle that he lived. After they got him out, he was in a coma for two weeks. His parents didn't think he'd make it. His father even made a suit to bury him in. But my Dad survived to become a father of four and grandfather to (including my baby this year) seven grandchildren! I always used to laugh at the tale of one of my Dad's first jobs, in a doll factory. Apparently he was fired after they realized the dolls coming off my Dad's line had one blue eye, one brown eye. My father was colour blind! I'm not sure if he had been born that way or if it was as a result of his accident. I can't imagine not being able to see colours. As an artist, I love colour. One of the reasons I long to live in the tropics (ever since my trip to Samana) are the intoxicatingly bright, beautiful colours -- especially turquoise and fuchsia.  

I was worried about my Father after he retired. He had worked so hard his whole life, it seemed that was all he knew to do but he seems to be happy and relatively stress-free (as much as you can be living with my Mom!) He keeps himself busy, stays healthy, takes long walks. I guess after all those years of constantly working overtime, he really needed a break.

Dad and Me more recently

Thank you Dad, for always being there for me, for supporting me, believing in me, loving me, even when I was difficult. Thank you for working so hard to provide for us through the years. When I was younger it felt like you were ignoring me, like I just couldn't win your attention. But now I realize that you loved me and were proud of me all along, it was just hard for you to say it. As they say, actions speak louder than words. I see now how much you have done for me throughout my life and that that was the real proof of your love. I am grateful.
I love you, Dad. Happy Father's Day.
See you on Sunday! xo


  1. A very nice tribute to your dad. You're very lucky to have him.

    1. Thank you! Celebrated Father's Day yesterday. I gave him a copy of this blog post and he hugged me. Hopefully he'll read it...Things I wouldn't have the nerve to say in person...