Note: I found this post that I wrote around Father’s Day in 2017. I really liked it and decided to finish it off.
Coming to America
My great grandfather, Pietro Monago, settled in a small Pennsylvania town called Lewis Run that likely resembled the one he came from in central Italy. He opened a general store and hotel that serviced the local train station and brick factory workers. During lean years, the family took a loss to keep the town fed. My grandfather would continue to live in the same town, first taking over his father’s store and later working in the local oil refinery. He was a good musician (tuba and sousaphone) and played in many local bands. By the time I knew my grandpa, he basically spent his time working local flea markets, puttering around to visit local relatives and spoiling us whenever we came to visit.
Dad was the middle child of 5, and opted to leave town when he came of age to join the Air Force. My brother and I always thought the town where my dad grew up was so cool to visit, but we always knew we would be coming back to our suburban New Jersey home. It was not until I was much older, that I realized my Dad had to make the choice to leave forever, else he would never have a life of his own. As the factories closed and the refineries were no longer as busy, there weren’t as many opportunities for young people, and there was not enough money to go to college.
Small Town Boy Heads to the Big City
Dad looked at the Air Force as his ticket out of that small town. During his tour, he would learn about electronics and worked on the first cruise missile. After leaving the Air Force he would move to New York City. He furthered his experience with electronics and computer programming with online courses. This allowed him to take a job doing routine maintenance on IBM mainframe computers in the middle of the night. My dad got a job working with Guy Carpenter and Company, a division of Marsh McLennan in 1970. I would be born in Queens in 1974, and we would live there until 1978 when we moved to New Jersey.
A Better Life for Us
Growing up in Old Bridge, New Jersey was pretty great. I never wanted for much of anything. It didn’t always seem like it, but we had access to quite a bit. My dad had a commute to Manhattan via bus every day, which he would continue to do for the rest of his years working. When I was young, I treasured the vacations we would take to visit family in upstate New York and Pennsylvania. They were not glamorous but they were still special.
My brother and I both had the opportunity to go to college. I would not have predicted my path when I was younger. I ended up falling in love with computers and taking a route not unlike my dad, working in IT. Later I went back to grad school, take jobs in consulting, and do a fair amount of traveling over the next 20 years.
A Very Cool Legacy
My dad worked for 45 years before retiring from his job. While there, he rose from entry level to the executive ranks. He lived through the computer revolution and saw mainframes, midrange, client server, internet and mobile take hold. Dad experienced two World Trade Center attacks and survived, although many of his oldest friends did not. He stayed long enough to put in place the systems that replaced the ones he spent his whole life building. When I think about it all, it’s kind of amazing.
On his retirement, Dad’s colleagues put together a really nice presentation and send-off for him. They obviously enjoyed spending time with him. Some of them still call the house to talk to him a few years later.
The Strong, Silent Type
Dad is soft-spoken and easy to please, like Grandpa. He’s a jeans, hat and t-shirt guy. He doesn’t like fancy but he appreciates the nice things once in a while, like the visit we made to the French Laundry in Yountville (he insisted on paying).
Even when I moved 3000 miles away, my Dad always had time to listen to me vent. This as usually when I couldn’t figure out how to fix something in the house. Or when the stress of work and kids became too much. In the years that passed since I drafted this post, my life has taken some pretty major twists and turns. My dad was always there.
Being a father now, and knowing how hard it all is, I am just grateful. I will forever appreciate my father, his father, and his father before him. The working class heroes responsible for getting me where I am today.