As I approach Father’s Day at 60, I reflect on the values the father figures in my life have passed on to me. I believe values are important and I believe it is through our families that we inherit our most lasting values.
My father’s father, Dennis Power, died on my third birthday. But he is immortalized in a photo of the 1900 Holy Cross football team that the college reproduces often. He loved the competition of sports, but loved the duties of family life even more. During the Depression, he worked for his brothers roofing company, gladly carrying heavy pieces of slate to provide for his family. He had the endearing practice of crumbling money in his hand that he would surreptitiously pass to his children in a handshake, his finger to his lips, suggesting it was a secret between them alone.
My mother’s father, Sisino Pandiani, had that marriage of compassion and intelligence, during the age of child labor and the seven day work week, which produced radical political beliefs, not unlike many Southern Europeans of his era. His activities in his native Italy were effective enough for fascists to threaten him with death and force him to emigrate to the U.S. In the U.S., the threats continued. Yet, his beliefs were so strong that, when he began his own business, it was he, the owner, who brought the union into his own shop. He voted for Norman Thomas, the socialist, religiously. And he observed every Mayday, parading up and down his driveway, waving an American flag. Although I am not a socialist, I admire his stamina and courage.
I heard many stories about my father, John Power, from his friends. An all-city quarterback his freshman year in high school, his friends called him “Socco,” and bragged about being the friend of the toughest kid in the neighborhood. A crafty youth, he and his buddies spent depression winters peppering the fireman on the local train with snowballs. The fireman responded by heaving chunks of coal at the rascals. When the train left, the boys would happily pick up all the coal and bring it home for their family stove.
His feet were as agile as his hands, and he won numerous dance trophies. He became a dance promoter himself and introduced Duke Ellington to the City of Worcester. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
He never forced any beliefs on me, but persistently encouraged me to find my own.
The values I learned from these fathers are ingenuity, love of family, risk taking, commitment to ideals and a measure of fearlessness. It was, in part, their example that gave me the courage to participate in my first civil rights march in a Southern town known for its Klan activity, and later, to organize against drug dealers in urban neighborhoods.
My hope is that my children will learn the value of following their hearts to match their convictions with persistence, fortitude, and action.
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