My dad: the gentle giant
My dad looks like an extra off The Sopranos: he seems like the stereotypical Italian from New Jersey. Any time my sister or I had a boyfriend over, especially for the first time, the guy would stand cowering in front of my dad, shaking like a leaf.
Dad was the Vice President of Research and Development at Campbell’s Soup for years and his employees would act the same. They would drop whatever they were doing and run to do whatever he asked; I saw this first-hand during ‘Take your Child to Work day’.
You would think this would mean he’s a prickly or unapproachable person, but he is far from it; in fact, he’s one of the most gentle, kindest people I know. People just judged him for his appearance, just like with so many others.
Every day when he came home from work, I would basically run at him and hug him as hard as I possibly could. He always hugged me right back. Every time he left for the day, he would tell me and my mum and my sister that he loved us. He plays with his toddler grandchildren with abandon, laughter, and grace. He loves and respects every person in his life almost to a fault, and I know not only because that’s his personality but because I see that love and respect given right back to him.
This love extends to the animal world, too. When I was 12 I found a sticky note left for my mum that said ‘went to rescue turtle’, as he found an injured one on the side of the road. When we decided to rescue a greyhound, my dad picked the largest dog there because he knew no one else would adopt him.
Last year when my mum found an injured mouse in the house, she sent me a photo of my dad feeding it almond milk with a paintbrush. And there are no animals he loves more in this world than his cats, Luna and Ava. I always smile when I see such a tall, large man cuddle such a small, fluffy creature.
My dad is fiercely loyal, fiercely protective, and one of the many definitions of masculinity. He’s smart, strong, and self-made. But the strongest thing about him is that he loves and supports his family unconditionally. He’ll never abandon us. He shows me every day how much he cares for me.
And he taught me that it’s OK to be soft and trusting, even when the world tells you that you shouldn’t be.
He is unapologetically himself, and I am so very thankful he’s passed that trait down to me.