Life Lessons from Dad
by Donna Scrafano
As I observe his physical and mental health deteriorate, I find it difficult to embrace the fact that this ninety-year-old, ever-fading, weak individual is my father. I must get past the sometime daunting tasks of caregiving in order to be able to reminisce. It is only recently, because I now have additional support, that I am able to reach deep into my memories and make an effort to remember my father as he once was.
I rummage through old pictures and see a young, vibrant, and very handsome man—my father as I knew him. He was active in playing street sports such as football, baseball, and basketball. I remember my father telling the story that he couldn’t participate in school sports because the six boys in the family home were expected to work after school. He was the youngest child in the home. As a very young boy, my father worked on his uncle’s ice truck. He delivered newspapers during his latency years, and as a teen he worked in the local silk mill, as did some of his family members. After the silk mill, he was employed by a baking company for over thirty years. He retired from the bakery in 1993. During his years at the bakery and following his retirement, he and my mother owned and operated a delicatessen in the business district of our hometown. So he continued to work even after his retirement. In addition, my father assisted in caring for his aunts and uncles.
Although my father was not given the opportunity to play organized sports, his love for sports, mainly football and baseball, was evident. As a young child, he attended many Phillies baseball games with his brother and an uncle who lived in South Philadelphia. As a young man he coached a women’s softball team at the silk mill where he worked. And he’s been a Philadelphia Eagles fan ever since their establishment in 1933.
My father silently taught us stellar work ethics and the importance of behaving respectfully towards others, even if the other person doesn’t respond with the same respect—something I’ve struggled with most of my life. He promoted family values and taught me to be kind, honest, and mindful, and to walk away from nonsensical arguments. Walking away like that was yet another thing I struggled with, as I always needed to have the last word. He taught me the power of silence and how to choose my battles wisely. He himself is a man of very few words, but his role-modeling as he maneuvered through life became lessons for how I should (and eventually would) operate through my own life. Silent teaching.
My father was not the vocal disciplinarian in our home—my mother was. But although I never hesitated to voice my opinions to my mother, I shied away from doing so with my father. His examples of having good work ethics, being respectful, kind, mindful, honest, and walking away were, and continue to be, consistently evident. To date, when he goes in and out of hospitals and nursing facilities, the staff always tell me how easy he is to care for—he never complains, is always smiling, etc. Laid back and easy going, he definitely is. I’m still working on that personality trait. Don’t know if I will ever arrive.
In addition to teaching me life lessons, my father also did the same with his grandchildren and even his great-grandchildren. God willing, he will have the opportunity to meet his first great-great-grandchild in December of 2019.
This man we so proudly call father, grandfather, great-grandfather, as well as “Pop Pop,” ensured that his family came first and foremost. Selfless. He and my mother both sacrificed as they raised four children. However, as a child, I certainly did not see it. Again, his strength in silence prevailed.
On this Father’s Day and every day, I will pause and remember all the wonderful lessons in life my father taught me, my children, and my grandchildren. He’s lived his life as a humble man, a man who values life, love, and family. A prime example of a good human being. A father to be remembered.
Photo credits by: “A Lesson In Life” Gilad Binari (Israel) and “Dad” Porg (UK).
Donna began her journey in Human Services in 1983. During the next 35 years she held various positions and formally retired in 2018. She writes on an array of social issues. Donna's relaxation time includes walking her Lab, Roxy, having fun with her seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, writing for Silver Sage, spending time with friends and family. Her last full-time position was providing care to her father. Since that has ended, Donna is taking the time to invest in her own self care and interests.