“But the Common Man does not in the least want to found a sect. He is much more likely, for instance, to want to found a family.” – G.K. Chesterton
Anthony Malizia, was born on September 14, 1911 in Settefrati, Italy. Settefrati, is located in the mountains of the Province of Frosinone; in the Italian region Lazio, about 120km east of Rome and about 40km east of Frozinone.
My father emigrated, from Italy, to the United States, as a young man – entering the country, by way of Ellis Island, N.Y. He was sponsored by a cousin, and fulfilled his dream by becoming a U.S. citizen. His name is one of so many, who shared that common dream, that is forever engraved, on “The American Immigrant Wall Of Honor,” at Ellis Island in New York Harbor.
In 1940, he would marry my mother, Antoinette, who was, herself, a resident of New York City. They would move to, and live in, Connecticut, raising three boys; I being the youngest.
Prior to marriage, my father was a Civilian Conservation Corps laborer. He worked on projects located in Idaho and Texas. He wanted to enlist, to serve in World War II, but was discouraged in doing so, because my mother was pregnant with their first child. He was disappointed, knowing that his childhood friend and cousin was going and he could not.
For most of his working years, my dad worked the night shift, as a pressman, for Conde’ Nast – a magazine publishing company, which was located close to our home. So close, that he was able to walk to work. I can remember seeing him leave at about 5PM each day; with his lunch bag tucked under his arm. When he returned from work, at about 2AM, we would, of course, be asleep. He would grab a snack, that my mom had left for him from dinner, then would look in on his boys before he went to bed. He had a habit of gently picking our heads off our pillows and turning the pillow over. Then he would lower our heads onto the fresh underside. We never asked why he did that. But, on a cold winter night, it got your attention.
I was a young avid TV viewer, and had a used TV set in my bedroom. The reason being, I wasn’t able to use stairs as readily, or as often, as my brothers; to watch the main family TV, in the living room. The convenience of having a TV in one’s bedroom was that, whenever one chose, it could be tuned on. My dad was suspicious that I might be staying up too late watching TV. Before he returned from work, I would turn off the set and feign sleep. But, he wasn’t easily deceived. With one eye open, I’d see him slip into my room, and put his hand on the set, to check if it was still warm. So he accomplished his goal of getting me to sleep earlier, without saying a word. Because, I’d now turn it off much earlier to be certain that the old “Philco” would be cool to his touch. It is a wise boy, who can avoid being disciplined. A clever guy; my dad.
The Conde’ Nast, where my father worked, would close in the years ahead; leaving him unemployed. He was troubled by the loss of income. So he would work landscape jobs with my uncle, while interviewing for a new job with local companies. After returning from one interview, he told me that the person interviewing him, seemed as though he was just going through the motions; not leaving my father with a good feeling. When the interview was over, as my father was leaving, he told the gentleman conducting the interview: “I know, as soon as I leave, you are going to through my application in the trash basket.” One of the very duties he was applying for. The next day as my dad was working a landscaping job, the phone rang. When I answered it, the person calling, informed me that dad was hired, and gave me the pay rate and when he was to begin. When dad returned, I gave him the news. His was so happy and relieved that he began to dance. I can only liken what I witnessed, to the scene in the movie; “The Treasure Of Sierra Madre,” when John Huston danced for joy, after he and his associates discovered gold. As regards his interview, my dad was not one to mince words. He called things as he saw them , and in this instance, it seemed the right call. And that job, at that time; was like striking gold.
Summer’s were great fun. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we were never in want. My favorite summer events were the outdoor movie and Playland; an amusement park in Rye, New York. When we attended Playland, dad would carry me onto most of the rides. The effects of polio made it difficult for me to get onto the rides without aid. We’d usually have a group following us. Because, sooner or later, other patrons would catch on to the fact, that the ride attendees were giving us a longer ride; seeing how difficult it was for me to access.
Drive-in movies, for those who recall them, would start at dusk, and often would offer double features. Each Wednesday was “Buck Night.” That’s when you could load up the family car, with the whole family, all for $1.00. My mom and dad would switch to the back seat, leaving the front for me and my brother. Their motive was easily understood, when by the second feature, we would have to increase the speaker volume, to overcome the sound of snoring. Of course, on the return home, I’d be the one who had fallen asleep, and my dad would carry me to bed, with my head slumped on his shoulder, and brace covered legs, dangling in front of him.
While living in our neighborhood, I would watch my friends having a catch with their dads. I asked my dad if he’d catch with me. Now, if I missed the ball, he was doing double duty; as he would have to chase down the ball, that I couldn’t retrieve. Also, my dad’s native game was bocce not baseball. So he would deliver his throw, not like a pitch to home plate, but rather, like throwing the pallino ball, to begin the bocce game. This is just one example, of many, proving that he would do all he could(if he thought it beneficial to our growth), to help me, or my brothers, achieve the things we thought important; no matter how foreign it was to him.
I believe all kids see their fathers as heroes. On one occasion, it became clear to me. We were picnicking at Candlewood Lake, in Ct. While we were having lunch by the lake, some other visitors headed into the water, to scuba dive; laden with goggles, flippers, wet suits and oxygen tanks. It was a sunny, but rather raw day. Within minutes, the calm had changed to panic. One of the divers, was thrashing about, and screaming for help. He was hanging on to his fellow diver, who in a frenzy, was pulling him under. Two observers dove in and were able to gather both to shore. However, all were having trouble, freeing the panicked diver from his gear. My dad rushed over and was able to free the diver from his tank and wet suit. He then, wrapped blankets around the man, now uncontrollably shaking from the cold and fear. Dad then helped him out to a car, that was waiting to take him to a nearby hospital. As I watched my dad walk by, with the fortunate, yet exhausted diver, a feeling came over me; I was proud. Dad would later credit his ability to quickly extricate the diver from his equipment, to the daily experience gained in helping me put on and remove my leg braces.
When dad passed away from cancer, on January 16, 1969, the outpouring of love was overwhelming. So many were in attendance at his wake and funeral mass, that it was standing room only. My father never walked on the moon(although, due to his fun-loving nature, I’m sure, in his youth, he howled at it, at one time or another), nor was he a CEO for a Fortune 500 company. Yet, as a husband, family member, friend and father, he possessed that rare quality, compelled by his love, that one did not witness enough of then, nor does one today; You could count on him.
Of all the men that God could have given, as a father, to me and my brothers-He gave us him. My dad was equal in interest, discipline and love. He was a complete dad to each of us. He understood our individual attributes, gifts and dreams. He encouraged and supported us each, in the pursuit of goals, that reflected our innate unique purposes.
For being a man who understood the importance of his station within the family unit – and by sacrificing for that which he saw as his primary responsibility and purpose – he has well-earned the title: “Father.”
Happy Father’s Day, Dad; Be at peace.