Two for One

Angelo and Domenica.  They arrived in the United States from Sicily in the early 1920’s, passing through Ellis Island.  He had a fourth grade education, at best, and drove a cart for a living.  She had been the daughter of a vineyard manager, bootlegging an education with the vineyard owners daughter, until she was fourteen.  It was unheard of for a peasant girl to have so much schooling.

Settling into the milltown of Methuen, Massachusetts based on obtuse familial connections, they both worked in the sweatshops.  Their only child, Alfio, was born in 1923.  It was that extra bit of schooling that drove Domenica hard.  She would not settle for less for her son.  “Formazione!” (Education).  He was going to school.  He would not face a lifetime in the mills.

She lived to see him graduate with a degree in Engineering from Northeastern University.  But just barely. Packing his possessions into a trunk, he headed off to Detroit at 22 years old.  Certainly, she must have been proud as he entered the elite corps of ‘junior management trainees’ for Ford Motor Company.

It was cancer that got her.  Breast cancer, which wasn’t particularly treatable in the late 1940’s.  Alfio, an only child, left his promising start in Corporate America, and returned home to care for her.  As she was dying?  His father was overwhelmed at the prospect of losing his wife.  He took his own, breathing his last breath in Alfio’s arms. 

My father, Alfio, buried both of his parents before he was 25 years old.  Alone.  He regrouped, re-entered the workforce, and found purpose for his life.  He understood the meaning of the word “onward”.

Domenica and Angelo

Alfio, First Communion

17 thoughts on “Two for One

  1. what a tribute to the strength of your family, sugar. you have my heart. your father was born three years before my mama. i miss her more each passing year. theirs was, indeed, a great generation. xoxoxo

  2. Interesting, yet heart breaking reminiscence, daisyfae. Clearly, your dad was made of stern stuff, having the resilience to pick up and go on. Nowadays, that’s an extremely rare commodity in the western world.

    Sorry that you never got the chance to know your paternal grand parents.

  3. Education really is the key isn’t it.

    My father was the first from his family to get a college education. Seeing the value, he did them one better. He got a masters degree.

    Then he applied his passion for learning the best way he knew how. He became a teacher. But not just any teacher. Dad was a special education teacher. (This brought with it skills that no doubt proved very useful in dealing with 5 sons.)

    A salute to your father, all he endured and the inspiration he bestowed upon you Daisyfae.


  4. savannah – thanks. immigrants built this country… there was no such thing as an ‘english as a second language’ course for my father. he was tossed into a classroom and expected to learn english at 8 years old. they were amazing…

    jimmy – he never knew he was poor. his mother told him every day that he was brilliant and was destined for great things… she got him out… and he got me out…

    rob – sadly, and for reasons i never really understood, we only once visited his extended family in the boston area… it was neat to meet second cousins, and this boistrous family we’d never known. truly wish i could have met the grandparents, though…

    TAG – your father sounds like a hero, never mind the fact that he raised 5 boys?!?!? ouch! i’ve always told my children that a college education doesn’t necessarily make you smarter, but it can make your life easier… hope they’re listening…

    nursemyra – they are part of the set that hangs on my living room wall. above dad’s trunk (now a table), that mom was going to throw away. my favorite wall…

    chris – not great writing. but these are the only things i KNOW. i could embellish, but want to stay with facts… these are the things my father told me. i believe them. i could speculate… but i think it’s powerful as is…

    tNb – he believed his purpose in life was to rescue mom and her two young children. and he did. gave up many things that brought him joy along the way… i wonder how many of us can do that? not sure i could…

  5. manuel – in reality? there is a place called “Wallow”, right next to “Flail”. i’ve been to both. i prefer “Onwards”….

    gnukid – that’s where he went! i heard he was hanging out in Atlantic City and Branson, Missouri! He clung to that purpose… even though, sometimes, i know he had regrets for the opportunities he chose to put aside… makes me sad…

  6. silverstar – thank you. they’d have never made it without him…

    @syncopated eyeball – i’ve got the bedspread she made for her wedding night! once i figure out how to do it, it is going to be displayed on my wall…

    @lynn – the pics are my favorite…. makes me happy to look up and see the old folks!

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