Joseph Sabino Mistick: There are fathers everywhere
I am nearly twice as old as my father was when he died. The young man had come home from war broken, but hopeful enough to get married and have a son. He lived like he was going to grow old.
His death was a tragedy, but it was the age of tragedies. Every house on our block had lost a son or welcomed one home in bad shape. Many were simply delayed casualties of war, blessed to die with their families.
I was nearly 4 when my father died, and people ask if I remember him. The grieving at the funeral home stands out, but I long ago concluded that I was merely remembering stories I had heard about those awful days.
For years, I thought I remembered waving goodbye at the front door as he headed off to work every day. Then, I rediscovered an old photo of me in my mother’s arms, waving at the camera. I must have made that a memory.
When you are lucky, as I was, grandfathers and uncles will do their best to fill the hole in your life. I also learned that a good stepdad can be a kid’s savior, even if the loss never goes away.
And here’s the other good news I discovered: There are fathers all around you — good men without a blood or legal connection who treat you like a son or daughter when you need it. Maybe they see themselves in you, but their only reward is knowing that they helped.
Frank Amato Sr., was the “boss” in our parts in the 1950s and he kept my mom and me from falling through the cracks. In those scary early years, he held my hand as we walked along Braddock Avenue on bustling Saturday nights, and I felt protected.
Frank made sure we had the essentials, and he got my mother a job in a county row office, called “widow’s row” then, where the widows of World War II veterans were often hired. That saved our little family.
College was not a family tradition but I headed there mostly to avoid wasting my “sole surviving son” GI Bill education benefits. When I met Dr. Myron Taube, my Pitt writing professor, I knew I had caught a break.
Dr. Taube hosted a small group of writing students in his office every day, talking about writing, but mostly about life. His office was home for a kid who needed a home. I would not have stayed without him.
Dean John Sciullo of Duquesne Law School took a chance on me. He knew that the children and grandchildren of immigrants needed to walk the halls of justice, too. And he opened the law school doors to scores of us.
Dean Sciullo stayed close, especially when I decided to hang a shingle in the old neighborhood, just as he had done. He was a mentor in the law, but his biggest lesson was to live with “passione.”
This Father’s Day, honor your father, but also remember those men who were there for you when your father could not be. And be sure to pass it on when you can.
Joseph Sabino Mistick is a Pittsburgh lawyer. Reach him at [email protected].