In praise of my father

Tomorrow (September 13) is my father's 93rd birthday. He will celebrate it with my mother. I will visit his human remains at Naxxar.

He could not read or write. My mother was able to do both. I hope that in their spare time she would read to him extracts from my PhD dissertation. If they find it too boring, I will not be annoyed in any way. I would very much like, though, that she reads him the dedication:

"Dedicated to my father on the first anniversary of his death. He who was not able to read or write did his best so that I would be able to do both. I hope my work makes both him and my late mother proud."

He never went to school but was very talented, well-mannered and had an exquisite sense of humour . He graduated from the University of the Streets. He taught me many things, most more valuable that the stuff I learned at different schools or universities.

He taught me:

Never ask what others can do but ask yourself what you could do and just do it. Never dream of what you could do if you have available things which are out of your reach. Do the best you can with the things you have. If you excel with the little you have the rest will follow. You don't live alone. If others are not ok, you are not ok. Share.Duty comes before pleasure. Work, work and if you have more time, work.Impossible? That word exists only in the dictionary of the lazy or half-baked people.Humour makes the world go round.

He never verbalised these statement in the way I write them. I learned them by emulating the way he lived.

There is one particular thing he taught me which I treasure more than the rest as it made me the way I am much more than anything else. It was his leitmotiv. He verbalised it in the clearest fashion towards the end of his life; ironically enough in one of his lucid moments that contrasted so much with the moments drowned in the sorrow that's dementia.

I clearly remember the incident in Casa Antonia, the wonderful Balzan nursing home for old people where he lived for a few years. He was very agitated. I tried to calm him down.

"They always tell us to behave in a different way than this", I said.

He changed in the most dramatic way possible. He became totally calm. His voice became strong and resolute. He looked at me the way only he knew how to look at a person and said:

"My son, I never did what others told me to do just because they told me to do it. I always did what I believed was right to do. You do the same. So don't tell me that this is what others tell us to do."

I obeyed him to the letter. I still do.

When the going gets too tough or the kitchen gets extremely hot or others say it's time to pack, I remember the words of my father and resolutely walk ahead. I am very thankful to my father and very proud that whatever challenge presented itself, I faced it all, stood tall and, most important of all, I did it my way.

I have just one regret. I should have asked someone to play Frank Sinatra's My Way at my father's funeral.

If you find some time click on this link, listen to the fantastic voice of Frank Sinatra while saying a little prayer for my father.


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