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Oh Fadda, My Fadda

My dad shows me how to tie a tie.


My father would have been just as happy if he and my mother never had children. Don’t let this thought evoke shock, horror, or pity. Just continue reading his tale, straight out of the movies, and forgive me a little artistic license, as I wasn’t there to witness what happened:

In the late 1960s, James Robert Avitable, an Italian hothead, caught Robyn’s eye. Two years older than my mother and a physical embodiment of the devil-may-care attitude, he drove fast, thumbed his nose at the consequences, and lived on the other side of the tracks, perfect for my conservatively raised, snuck cigarettes in the bathroom when she was 12, fiery redhead mother. He was her rebellion, tougher than her uncles, the Irish hooligans who started fights and hung boyfriends out of third-story windows, and he was there to stay.

But then time, as it has a frustrating tendency to do, passed. Maybe my mother saw her life taking shape and a path forming as she approached the end of her teenage years. Maybe my dad reveled in his adolescence too much.  Maybe there was other love on the horizon – someone more similar. I don’t know.

But I know that for these two stah-crossed lovahs, everything hung in the balance. A burgeoning relationship, a blooming love, hovering on the edge of becoming something greater. And Dad left. He and a childhood friend began walking across America on a journey of self discovery that couldn’t happen today,  lost to the fear and paranoia of our modern society. From Boston, they walked, hitchhiked, hopped trains, and traveled all the way to the West Coast. His friend gave up and called home for a plane ticket, but Dad persisted.

Alone, he traveled road after road back to Boston. Harassed by the police who saw this unwashed hippie as a threat to their whitewashed ways of life, he continued nonetheless, refusing to give in. And while he walked, while he endured the idle chatter of truckers and itinerant travelers, he found himself.  Dad found his core. His reason for moving forward and facing each day. And he kept moving.

In my head, it was a cold rainy spring night. Weary, unshaven, and dirty, he thanks the old man who drops him off in front of her house. His backpack, held together with little more than hope, trails behind him as he rings the doorbell. She answers the door, expecting anyone but him. In a rush, his words spill out as he tells her how much she means to him. As she steps back and cries, he gets down on one knee and asks her to be with him forever. And she tells him to go take a shower first but yes. Yes.

Jim and Robyn Avitable

My father would have been just as happy if he and my mother never had children. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s an amazing thing. The examples he sets in dedication, love, and commitment are stronger than anyone I’ve ever met. With my mother, he has what he wants in life, and every action is designed to ensure the satisfaction and happiness of the woman he loves.

The further we troublemakers three get away from our parents and from upsetting our mother with the banalities of our lives, the more mellow he’s become. He absolutely loves us, and he deeply cares for us, and he wants us to succeed in life and make him proud, but nothing is stronger than the love he feels for our mother.

And I just can’t fault him for that. Can you?

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.

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