My Father’s Son: Eulogy for my Dad, David Ferraro
Good Morning, on behalf of my family; my step mother Joanne, my sister Amanda, my step brother Darcy, and sisters Andrea and Erica, thank you for your love and support and for attending today to honour our father, our husband, our brother, our uncle, our cousin, our friend, and my hero, David Ferraro.
Hero: now that’s a very loaded attribute. With it, comes some weight. There is an expectation that we have of this word; often times, there is a cape and tights involved, something Dad would highly disapprove of as combative wardrobe attire. These are normally brave men and women that selflessly give their time and sacrifice their well-being for the good of others. As I grew older, the façade of these characters being real drifted from my mind and became nothing more than fantasy. In University, I was introduced to my favourite character in literature, the anti-hero; someone who has come across a great adventure and the fate of those around them relies on the abilities of this one character. He or she is the opposite of Superman or He-man or Wonder Women, they reluctantly pick up their sword to do battle, they cry in the face of fear, they doubt themselves but never the less, they move forward, inch by inch, day by day. They know the road ahead will be difficult but they trudge on with fortitude. They battle with courage and bravery and although they don’t possess the skills of those on the high ground, they take two shots to give one of their own and they wear their hearts on their sleeves. They are plagued by past grief; they sometimes drink or smoke too much but always stand up for what is right or the little guy. They are around when the chips are down, when the hours are the darkest, and things seem bleak.
You see, some heroes don’t wear capes, some wear torn Levis 501s-ripped at the knees, Kodiak Cowboy Boots, cut off Jean Shorts in the summer, Outdated Cosby Sweaters, Denim Shirts and Jackets and Plaid Coats. They drink Labatt Blue and Smoke Rothmann King Size, they like their pasta hot, their steak rare, and a poorly timed, borderline inappropriate joke. This was my father, David. Our Anti-Hero.
Dad was a fighter, and although he never fought professionally, his hands bore the scars of having had to use them throughout his life. Recently, in the Championship Rounds of his life, Dad lost his battle to Cancer after a near 15-year fight. It is no secret that Dad battled against and wrestled with his past, which often lead to more and more battles in the future against himself. Still, he managed to get up every day and even in the face of terminal disease and the inevitable end, he continued to live and did so on his own terms, in his own way, and no one was going to tell him otherwise. This was Dad, fiercely stubborn and un-apologetically himself at all times. He knew who he was and always played his hand the same way, intensely direct and aggressive. In the poker game of life, Dad played a 2/4 off suit like pocket aces, every single time. You would never be able to tell if he was bluffing, but he could sniff out a liar or coward in any group, at any range, from any social class, at any time.
Never technically savvy, I once had to put a sticker on his TV/Video button on his remote. The sticker read, “Blue?” as in the colour of the screen when it is on another input channel. That button was to change it back and to cause him less stress and a phone call that would say, “Hey. I broke the TV again.” There were also the great piles of televisions, A Zenith that was purchased in the 80’s with the full Oakwood casing. It weighed a metric ton and I know this because of the hernia inducing pain that dead-lifting that thing created. On top of this was another black plastic monstrosity and then finally, a small one that worked fine, according to him. This meant that it was simple enough to not break. My favourite thing would be the multiple times he would pull out cheques to buy groceries only to have the clerk look at me a confused face and I would then proceed to smile politely and shake my head, motioning for another form of payment. Dad was fine with the banking of the 70s and the tech of the 80s.
A great salesman, he knew exactly what you needed to hear, and when you needed to hear it. He was emotionally intelligent beyond a graphing scale. He could sense your pain through the phone or even in the air. So many times, in the battles of my own life, the phone would ring and on the other end I’d hear, “Hey Steveo, Bobo. What doin, Boy? It’s the Old Boy. I’m just checking up on ya. Give me a call when you get a second, k, Commander? BYE BYE (Dave Voice).” He always knew when to call, and he never stopped calling, even through the years where I reluctantly, foolishly, and regrettably, forgot how to call back.
Dad had a soft spot for the little guy, the immigrant, the beaten and the downtrodden. These were his people. He was comfortable with those that were honest and raw with him. If you had a beer and a good story, Dad was down to hear it. A bevvy of characters would come in and out of our lives, Uncles with Last Names not seemingly Italian and people that he referred to always as a “close, personal friend of mine.” They rode motorcycles and drove pick-ups, all of them a little rough around the edges but Dad had a way of seeing the polish of a person’s soul even through the harshest elements of whatever would rust it. He was often the voice of the voiceless and he knew how to connect to people.
He hated shopping malls and corporations or anyone that would be referred to as “Bugie.” I once dyed my hair blonde as was the style at the time in hard rock and rap. He walked around the house calling me “Todd: the ski instructor” for days. On family trips down south, he loved being called Darlin’ and pretending he was a Southerner. He would charm and flirt and try out his chivalrous tactics on the stunned faces of waitresses when they would ask, “Where y’all from, again?” I learned a lot at those restaurants.
His big laugh, giant smile, and good nature made him a strong candidate where people would often confide in my Dad. In his office, he would force me to stand up straight, shake his or her hand, introduce myself, and then I would watch him talk someone down, turn that frown into a smile, shake their hand, and send them on their way. He would speak to people on a base level, sometimes in broken English or Bastard-ized Italian so they wouldn’t feel embarrassed. I learned a lot in that office.
His intensity was unmatched and his temper would sometimes get the better of him. On many occasions, I watched my Dad stare not only at but through a man in his attempt to remind them that they better not try anything foolish and that they had definitely picked the wrong fight, with the wrong man, on the wrong day. I learned a lot in those moments.
A man of many words, he would slow himself down when he was giving advice to you and he would pause to ensure you got the message other by repeating it or by Slowing. It. Down. So. You. Would. Listen. (Angry Dave Voice). He never spoke with his hands but would pantomime moving objects around the table as if plotting a bank heist. He had one liners that stuck with you and gave you daily motivations and discipline such as, “Never say whoa in a bad spot,” and “If it’s the only game in town boy, that’s the one you play.”
He was a simple man with a chaotic mind which only ever seemed to release its hold on him whenever he would get up north, to Gobbles Grove, the Saugeen Shores. I used to love seeing him sip his coffee, cross legged like a king in his kingdom; smoking a cigarette and enjoying the peace of the water, the birds and the air. He would get up often at 4am and watch the world awaken. It is here that Dad would flash his Elvis Drawl of a smile, slyly, and wink at you, a classic “Dave” move. It was almost as if he was checking in with you while at the same time letting you know that he was good. We would make him eat Corn on the cobb so we could watch his Tom Selek like mustache crawl along the yellow cobb like a caterpillar. I would cuddle into his one hairy shoulder as we cuddled on the couch and one time, he made me laugh so hard I lost control of my bladder and peed on that couch. I know Amanda remembers. The best part was, I begged him to stop but he proceeded with the joke as if to say, “Sorry Boy, You’re peeing your pants!”
…still, even as his son, there was a lot about Dad that I did not know. There was a lot of his past that he would not share and I knew enough to know that maybe some doors are left better closed, and some things better left unsaid. This was Dad’s attempt to ensure that I would blaze my own path without the burdens and battles of his bestowed on to me.
When Dad’s battle began to intensify several years ago, I bought him a movie to watch. I thought it would explain to him how I felt about our relationship. The movie was called, Big Fish, and much like my relationship with Dad, the protagonist returns to his father’s home while he is ill to ask him questions about his life and his past. He wanted the truth, not the “fairy tales, or whopper” stories that comprised the majority of his knowledge of the man. He wanted to know the truth, the whole truth, and he wanted to know his father in a way outside of the stories that he had been told of his adventures by his father’s friends or relatives. He wanted them from the source. We all have a story about Dad, some touching, some sad, some aggravating, but nevertheless, a great story. At the end of the film, you can see the protagonist interacting at the wake of his father and the amount of people that attended the service gave him hope and peace, that even though the stories were embellished, grandiose, and romanticized, they were just as important to those that experienced the adventures with him. In the end, the truth was never as important as the impact his father had on the many lives of those throughout the film.
If you were fortunate enough to be in his circle, Dad loved you. He was fiercely loyal to his friends and his family. He loved his children, his grand kids and his partner, Joanne, with all of his being. She loved him since the moment they met she and took care of him until the end with a grace and dignity that few have ever done. Along the way, she ended up with two more children, my sister and I, and loved us and our partners and children, all the same. He was adamant that you knew he loved you and would never let you off the phone without telling you. Sometimes, he would get choked up if you said it, and a long pause at the end of the phone call told you that he was your biggest fan. He always told me he was proud of me and for a time, I collected accolades for the both of us, knowing that he never had the opportunities I did, every punch, or kick thrown in competition, black belt attained, basket scored (very few) or tackle implemented (more than a few) was to make him proud and to elevate our stature amongst those that saw us both as less.
An avid fan of music with a beautiful voice, when we were told that Dad was reaching the end, I sat down and started to write down all the songs that he loved and played throughout our house. Recently, I started playing guitar again, as my daughter has found a love for music, like her dad and Nonno Ferraro. Dad always hated my tattoos and as I sat getting my forearm done as a tribute for him the song Rose Tattoo came on, the chorus spoke to me as I looked over my bodily collection:
“Some may be from showing up
Others are from growing up
Sometimes I was so messed up and didn’t have a clue
I ain’t winning no one over
I wear it just for you
I’ve got your name written here
In a rose tattoo”
…It dawned on me that I haven’t written a song on a while, so I’ll end on this chorus, Entitled “My Father’s Son,”
“So if this is the last our chapter, let’s make it a good one.
Let’s ride off into the sunset, let’s let bygones be bygones.
Let’s have a quick remembrance of the days and years, all gone.
So if this is the last thing you hear from me, ‘Dad, know that I’m so proud to be your son.’”
Rest in Power, Old Man. Keep a cold one in the fridge for me and I’ll get there eventually.