I went out on the deck with tall oaks surrounding me, a full moon shining above and remembered my father. I remembered when I was tall enough, my nose barely reaching the table top, watching his hands making gnocchi; I loved the small dumplings.
His hands were strong yet gentle rolling the dough and cutting little pieces, rolling his finger over them. Later we would spread them on a clean cloth on the bed to dry a little, before we cooked them and then covered them with a great sauce only he could make.
I thought these are the things children remember, a father hands doing something good and delicious.
He taught me how to play checkers and I would watch those big hands moving the pieces, paying attention and learning while he nodded to signal a good move or not by shaking his head a little. He did not talk much, he let me correct my move in silence, it allowed me to think and process my move in my head, developing my strategy. He was teaching me without a word and I learned fast, feeling acceptance not judgement and approval not rejection.
How many children miss that, a father who cares, is gentle, loving and patient.
I was fortunate, he gave me time, love and told me great stories. He told me real stories of his life and when he was 16, a stowaway on a ship bound to America, spending 3 months in Brooklyn waiting for a ship to take him back to Italy. As I got older, I wish I had realized the wisdom of his gifts and passed them on to my children. Patience was the greatest.
It took awhile to realize that education does not equal wisdom and that his ignorance of some things I had learned counted little compared to the wisdom he had.
I am grateful to have known someone with a heart of gold and gentle hands who could love deeply.