From what I've heard, he was bigger than life.
Not big in stature, but a big presence. Big laugh, big smile, a pack of Lucky Strike Straights in his pocket, his booming voice (passed on to my brother and my son) able to be heard in the kitchen at one end of the house when he spoke at his normal volume from the other end of the house.
He worked hard, drank hard, was a stern disciplinarian to my older brother and sisters (stories of the razor strop still are told at family gatherings).
He was quick with a stinging response and a sarcastic comeback.
He loved my mom and once called her the "Gem of the Ocean".
He wrote letters to the family back home when he was traveling for work, always ending with a note in shorthand just for my mom.
He died when I was five. I didn't discover what he had died from until I was 19. Our family was always big on secrets.
He was a handsome man, dark hair, dark eyes, straight nose, "built like a fireplug", square hands, short fingers. I inherited everything but the straight nose. Two of my brothers look just like him. So does my son.
One Labor Day, he had big plans for the older kids to work on the house. My sister protested, "But Daddy, it's LABOR Day!", to which he replied, "That's right, and Goddamn it, you're going to LABOR!"
One time, he and my uncle gave each other haircuts. On a whim my uncle shaved a bald stripe down the middle of his head. My dad responded in kind and they both ended up totally bald. They rang the doorbell at my parents' house and they swept their hats off at the same time. Ta-da!
He loved me. He called me his little angel. I only have two pictures of me with him. In both, he's kissing me.
I don't remember him at all. Not at all. But I'm glad I have these pictures.
Happy Father's Day!