This year, even though the prompts from my FB Friends have me considering doing so again this year, I hesitate. Why?
Lately I have been working on a project that involves going through family photographs and home movies. I am putting together a compilation of these in the hopes of creating a documentary film. Working with a filmmaker I have finally committed to finishing this project, which I literally started over thirty years ago. However, the process has made me do some deep thinking and I am struggling with emotions that are difficult to face. Mainly, I am finally facing the feelings I have for my father.
No matter what my research has turned up: that my father was a man with flaws, a man who loved his family and did his best to give them everything that his station in life could afford, I see him as the man who destroyed us. Growing up, I was given the impression he was somewhat of a monster; a controlling husband who lost ultimate control one fateful night and took the life of his wife. To avoid paying the ultimate price himself, quite possibly the electric chair, he took the coward’s way out and killed himself.
That’s the story I always knew until I sought answers myself.
What I discovered is that his actions, while not ever, ever justified, were spurred by events that tested his manhood, fatherhood, and self-preservation. He was raised in a culture where the man’s honor must reign. He feared the loss of what he held most dear. The spark that smoldered in him was fueled by alcohol. All of these factors contributed to the night he lost his control and pulled a trigger, forever changing the lives of the Joseph Gioia family of Batavia, New York.
While I can only guess as to his thoughts after he realized what he had done, I know from my research that he was despondent and I would surmise sorry to the depths of his soul. I believe he killed himself mostly because he thought he deserved it and that his family, mainly his four children, would be better off without a convicted murderer to look up to.
Was he right? That is a question that plagues me.
If he were still on this earth, I could ask him the questions that haunt me.
What happened that night? Did you love our mom? Us? Are you sorry?
If he were still with us I would be able to look upon his face in real time, not gaze longingly at it on a television screen looking for signs that we are related. I would be able to hear his voice, not wonder if the sound that comes out of my brothers matches that of his. Most of all, I would not, and this is a difficult confession to make, feel a connection to older Italian men; strangers who by virtue of their look and surname draw me to them, not in a sexual way, but in search of a paternal bond, one of which I have never experienced.
So, this Father’s Day, rather than play the game all of my Facebook Friends are playing, honoring their dads with a picture of past, happy times, I will honor my father in a different way. As I splice together the photos and film footage of our family during happy times,
I will try and find the compassion within me to forgive him. I should like to honor him by sharing the truth that I found out about him and our mother: that humans are fallible, and even though parents are never supposed to disappoint us, sometimes it happens.
If I had the miraculous opportunity to speak to my father, I would thank him for giving me life, for providing my brothers with memories both sweet and bitter (at least they have memories), and for his love of photography and filmmaking. Without the last I would not have any images or evidence of my intact family prior to it being lost forever.