I saw my dad for the last time on July 4.

He died on Nov. 7, 2017.

On that Fourth, cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews, and friends all gathered at my sister’s house for one nal big family reunion like we used to have as kids for the holiday. We knew full well this would be, for many of us, the nal time we would see him.

and Alzheimer’s to the point of it having whittled his brain and body to a shell of its former self, and it would often take some time for him to remember me. Luckily, the years of trouble I caused created deep grooves in his brain. Not even dementia could totally wipe me out of his memory. Seeing him on the Fourth was tough. He wasn’t the man I remember growing up with. The last time he was at his best was at my wedding in 2015. We are so grateful he was able to be there, able to remember the time, and able to live to see me nd the woman of my dreams. I remember looking at his hands this July Fourth, and they were no longer the strong, calloused hands that used to pound pizza dough for 35 years. They weren’t the ones that planted gardens and groves or made homemade wine at our childhood house in Long Island, NY. And they were no longer the ones that provided our family with the opportunity to live in this country. My one regret is that I didn’t tell my dad I loved him enough over our lives. Sicilian men are not like that. Well, that’s the stereotype, and our family lived that stereotype. It’s not to say the men and fathers in our family didn’t love their sons. It was just that the open expression of that love was not the norm. They came from a different time, a different era of life. But we knew they loved us. It was never a question. It was a constant. I gave him every reason to want to toss me to the curb, but he always was there.

Growing up, my dad and two of his three

brothers owned La Strada Restaurant together. For 35 years of our lives, those men would only take four holidays off: Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, and July Fourth. It was one of our favorite holidays because we would all be together and eat, cause trouble, eat more, play games, ride bikes, cause more trouble, eat, and be a loud Italian family. My wife, still to this day, is trying to get used to how loud we are. For years, my father was deteriorating with dementia

My dad and me in front of our restaurant sometime in the ‘70s

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