As I start typing this it's nearly a quarter to midnight. In about 15 minutes it will be February 5th, a date very close to my heart. I wanted to publish a post on this date because it marks my father's birthday, which I still celebrate 25 years after his premature death. Perhaps I should say commemorate, but I prefer the word celebrate, since the act of celebrating is a form of gratitude towards life. And I am deeply grateful to my dad.

My father was a very reserved kind of guy who didn't talk much but spoke through concrete actions. When he was alive we didn't see eye to eye. His very quiet nature mixed with his rather traditional views (or so they seemed to me at the time) of how a woman should be, made our relationship rather clumsy to say the least. He was from the south of Italy and I grew up in the north part of the country so we had very different views about life. Adding to that, my mother was also a northerner and, with her family being much nearer to us, I ended up being "nurtured" under a cultural influence that was perhaps the opposite of what my father would have hoped for. In short, he was outnumbered and had little impact on my upbringing!

He was the 'alien' coming from afar, so to speak and, rather sadly, I ended up perceiving him as 
the outsider 
in my family life, ignoring the fact that I not only bore his name but also his very genes. I have to admit that, up until the last year of his life, respect from me was rather scarce. Well, I had my reasons for feeling let down by him and many of them were actually quite justified. The fact that he was hardly ever at home because of the demands of his highly risky job (undercover policeman) AND his apparent resignation to the undeniable growing barriers within the dynamics of our relationship, didn't help our bonding one bit. In short, he was a stranger to me who, now and again, popped up out of nowhere and tried to impose some rules and authority while the rest of the time I was left at home with responsibilities bigger than me and no emotional support. Fat chance!

But my dad, as I knew him then, was just one part of what I perceived him to be. There is another side to him, the most authentic and sincere, the most loving and resilient that, undercover and unpretentous-ly, has managed to nurture me in spite of all the barriers, the challenges, the misconceptions and the sheer tough karma that has pervaded our family history. It all started during the final months of his life, when he knew he had only a very short time to live. The sheer determination of wanting to reach my heart, no matter what, before it was too late made him overcome any obstacle that could prevent that from happening and he began to conquer my trust without being sentimental about the whole thing. 

Of course there is so much one can do in 6 months to melt the chill of 20 years or so, and yet my admiration for that struggle grows stronger every day even now, because I still discover daily where I get that same quality within me - and a lot more besides. Curiously, it was in those months that I learned from my dad that pomegranate was his favourite fruit!

At the funeral I was overwhelmed by the humongous number of people coming to pay their respect. I hadn't realise how many lives he had touched! And to this day, 25 years after his passing, I still get the odd neighbour or two who knew him, come up to me and say what a man of integrity my father was. "A rare breed your dad!" I hear them saying. "I know :)", I smile inside.

But that's just one part of the equation. The nurturing has gone on during the last two decades, well after his death, after my visits to his native town and the reconnection with that side of the family and history. What a wealth of information and discovery! It was as if a whole part of who I am had finally come to light and I could at last make all the connections that I just didn't have before. Connections that keep on forming as I retrace the memories of my childhood and suddenly I can begin to give full credit to all the things that my father actually did for me, without bragging about it. And what I realise is that he had supported me and nurtured my talents more than anyone else in the family and I can finally give credit where credit is sorely due!

This is the incredible legacy my father has managed to leave behind! Today I can recognise all the finest features of his short life and quirky personality and I feel proud to be his daughter. Thank you dad for all the things you did for me and for giving me life so many times over. I love you :)

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