“Your dad just got a home computer,” my mom called to tell me the afternoon it came. “He’s been in the back setting it up for over three hours. Besides golf, I’ve never seen him so enthralled with something.”
In the months and years to come, my mother would refer to that IBM beauty as my dad’s “girlfriend”.
“He spends more time with that damn computer than he does with me,” she’d say, “but part of me is glad he’s found something new to keep him busy.”
It was true too. My dad loved his computer. He learned it like it was a new job skill, which even back in the 80s, it was. Before he had it, we had no idea how creative he was. He’d make his own greeting cards and was always proud to tell you, “I made it on the computer!” My mom was the one who mastered Palmer Penmanship, always handwriting her weekly notes and cards, but my dad never sent us anything in writing until he started using his computer. He even bought a special program just so he could send us a semi-personalized birthday card or a special occasion wish. Maybe like all of us now, he couldn’t stand the sight of his own handwriting that looked like something a cat would scribble for a feel-good Tik Tok post. That computer was a game changer for my dad and when my mom died, like her, we were grateful he had his “girlfriend” to keep him busy.
Growing up, the dads I knew didn’t have tight relationships with their kids like the ones we’d see on TV reruns. Andy Griffith and his son Opie, the Father Knows Best dad Jim Anderson and his daughter Jane, or the Leave it to Beaver dad Ward Cleaver and his son… Beaver.
Most of the dads from my childhood had one main mission; to provide a home, shelter and comfort for their families. My dad was like most of them, except he had a love for music and so much charisma, he’d control every room he entered.
He was inclusive, so much so that if you were sitting alone at one of his parties, he’d pull you into the center of the room and have you sing while he played his ukulele. It didn’t matter if you were shy, tone deaf or didn’t know the words, he’d help you thru it, make you sound better than you were and end it with a loud “Hot Dog!” or “Atta Girl!”
No one left our house or gathering my dad was at feeling left out, ignored or slighted. Regardless of age, color or gender, my dad used his uke the way Captain America uses his shield. He created peace, happiness and harmony… literally, with my mom singing right beside him. He just had a way of making everyone feel comfortable, respected and included.
My dad was a man of routine. He woke early, and regardless of the weather, he walked at least three miles every morning. Once home, he’d make his coffee, hit the shower, put on his business suit and read the paper before heading out to work. After he semi-retired, his suit was replaced with a collared polo and a bright colored pair of golf pants. He’d head out the door always arriving on time, never making his golf partners wait. When he returned home, he’d shower again, visit his computer girlfriend and eventually join my mom for a glass of wine before dinner. No matter what they’d planned in the evenings, my dad went to bed after the nightly news and was completely unconscious the minute his head hit the pillow. Rarely, did he struggle with sleep and even after my mom died, he managed to stick to his daily routine. Maybe that’s what kept him living ten years longer than she did.
After moving to Florida, they loved to visit Chicago. He’d arrive at our house, point to the four feet of snow outside and say something like, “Can you believe I left sunshine and 80 degrees to come to this?” It brought him joy to know he no longer had to worry about shoveling the driveway or mowing the lawn. He’d never stay long and as we drove him back to the airport, he’d say his one of his favorite quotes, “I hate to leave, but fish and visitors stink after three days.” Something I still hear whenever we travel to visit family or friends.
The year after my mom died, my dad stuck to their old schedule, flying up to see us every few months. It was during one of these visits that I was trying to decide if I should leave my full time job and launch my own clothing company. I spread fabrics, samples and Excel sheets in front of him, asking for his advice and input. He looked at everything, not quite grasping the concept of creating an entire business around one nursing tank top and asked me, “You sure you want to leave the comforts of the corporate world to own a clothing business?”
He wasn’t being unsupportive, just cautious. My dad’s father was from Caposele, Italy. He became a tailor and started manufacturing beautiful suits for men and women back in the 30s. Each suit was distinguished, fully lined, and impeccably sewn, so my dad knew the challenges of the garment business. He told me about visiting my grandfather’s shop to watch the cutter slice thru high stacks of fabric with a rotary saw. He warned me about the amount of capital a clothing business needed and the small margins they make, but I was unhappy with my corporate job and determined to run my own company. So I went full-in anyway, never heeding my dad’s verbal warning or taking any of his advice.
It was one of the few times my dad actually commented on something I wanted to do. Unlike my mom, most times, he remained silent, teaching us more thru his actions and short sayings. If he did have an opinion, he rarely said it… unless he was paying for it and flat out refused, but mostly, he left us to make our own decisions. No additional information, no need for further discussion.
As parents, we knowingly and unknowingly pass along tons of cues to our kids. We can fill them with wordy cautions, talk to them about all the problems in the world or give them unsolicited advice that rarely sticks anyway. But when we teach them thru our actions and show them things like the importance of working out, a good night’s sleep, sticking to a healthy routine and to be kind and inclusive with others, that’s when they learn.
After we spoke about my idea for a business, he said, “You can take my advice or leave it. You gotta do what you want to do.” Not an ounce of judgement or another word to sway me, he left me to decide. It was a quality we rarely see in parents today and one I wish I could practice more often with my own adult children.
It’s hard to believe my dad died almost 14 years ago. Sometimes I see him on his morning walk in his baggy sweatshirt and joggers, with his arms bent in a way to propel him down the block. Other times I hear him singing an old song and yelling, “Come on Germo, sing this with me!” but lately, I see him sitting in front of his home computer… the girlfriend… learning a new program or printing one of his cards.
It’s then I realize how much I took him for granted knowing he was better than any of those TV dads. Sure they always had scripted words of wisdom, but my dad? He was the one who taught us thru his actions. He had the courage to let us fly solo, yet somehow we knew he was always there, silently supporting us.
Happy Father’s Day!
– Germaine Caprio, MAJAMAS EARTH Company Owner & Designer
Let ME know:
Do you have any long-lasting advice from your dad?
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