Happy Fathers Day Sonny

LER 1 ID Card Front _ADJ

Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)- Weekend contributor

This is a personal story that I need to share with you.  For many years before I became a Dad, Fathers Day always gave me mixed emotions.  Growing up without knowing my Father always made me uncomfortable on this special day.  While I always considered that my Mother did a masterful job handling being both a Mother and a Father to me and my siblings, there was still something missing.  My Dad would have turned 93 this past week and his birthday went by with only a few Facebook posts and comments from my siblings and relatives.  I am sure that my Mother was thinking about him on that day, but when I was young, Fathers Day was not a holiday in our house.

My Dad was born in 1921 and was one of 11 children born to Alex and Min Rafferty.  He grew up in Northern Lake County, Illinois and his father and my Grandfather, ran a moving and storage business that kept the entire family busy.  My Dad was named Lawrence, but was called Sonny by his Mother and Father and his siblings because he was born after a few girls in a row so my Grandfather was happy to have another Son.  I was never able to personally wish him a Happy Fathers Day because he was killed in the Service in March of 1951, just a few short weeks before I was born.  However, in the last several years I have thought about him often and written about him and his life, but I still have never wished him a Happy Fathers Day. 

When I was in Grade school, I missed my Father every time there was a Father/Son event.  While the Benedictine Sisters would make sure I was invited to the events and some of my friends fathers would invite me to come with them, I often felt out-of-place.  I was grateful for the invitations, but I would usually say thanks, but no thanks when asked.  I am sure I missed out on a lot of fun times, but I guess I may have felt embarrassment and took the easy way out.

In most respects, my Mother did many of the things that a Dad would do, but when it came time for sports, she was not able to show me the way.  My brother, who was 3 years older stepped in when he was older and played baseball and football with me and got me started in sports.  I always wonder who helped him when he was younger? Needless to say, my Mom would drive me everywhere, when I couldn’t ride my bike, in order to keep me involved in sporting activities and spent countless hours in the bleachers or stands, in order that I could experience and play Little League, Pony League, High School baseball and basketball and even some Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) football in grade school.

When it came to my graduations, and then my marriage and the birth and baptisms and first communions of my children, my Mom was always there. But there was something, someone missing at all of those watershed events.  Someone who didn’t get the opportunity to see me grow up or my older siblings grow up and have families.  When we would celebrate Fathers Day at our house or at my siblings houses over the years, we always thanked my Mom for all that she did, but I never wished my Dad a Happy Fathers Day.

In many respects, when I have attended wakes and funerals of friends parents over the years, and some of them would say that since I lost my Dad, I knew how they felt.  I would invariably tell them that they had it worse than me because I never felt the loss that my Mother felt or my older siblings who did know my Dad as very young kids.  I am not so sure that my statement was accurate, because not having a Father was a loss in itself.  But I would rarely admit that when I was a young man.

Now that I am in my 60’s, I have worked hard to find out as much as I could about my Dad and his life and how he died.  I learned about him being credited with 50 bombing missions in World War II  as a B-24 pilot, flying out of Italy.  I learned about the jobs he had after the Second World War and his service in the Air Force Reserve.  I learned that his last job before his reserve group was reactivated, he was a fireman for his hometown.  I was able to learn more about his last flight, even though there are many unanswered questions of just what happened to the plane and to him and the 50 plus other souls on board.  However, I have never wished him Fathers Day.

When I visit with my Mother at her assisted living facility, I will ask her about my Dad to try to fill in the gaps.  I have learned some things about my Dad from her in the last few years that she never told me before, or maybe I never heard before.  For someone who had to cope with 4 kinds under the age of 6 and my birth 6 weeks after the Air Force C-124 carrying my Dad and over 50 other airmen ditched in the Atlantic, my Mother was able to put us all through school and college.  My oldest sister obtained her Doctorate and all of my sisters graduated from college and my brother went to back to college after returning from Vietnam.  I think I shocked them all when I graduated from College and then Law School.  So my Mom must have done something right.  She was both Mother and Father to me and my siblings.  But still, there was something, someone missing.

It way past time for me to do something I have never been able to do.  Something that I probably always repressed myself from doing these past 63 years.  I guess it is never too late, but it does feel a little late.  Happy Fathers Day Dad.  I should have said it sooner, even though you weren’t there to hear me say it.   Then again, maybe you were there.

Don’t ever miss the opportunity to wish your Mother Happy Mothers Day  or Happy Fathers Day to your Father or to tell them or any family members that you love them.  You never know when you will no longer have the opportunity to tell them how you feel.  Don’t put it off.  Do it today.

Happy Fathers Day to everyone and especially, Happy Fathers Day Sonny.  I am sorry it took me so long! So very sorry.


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61 thoughts on “Happy Fathers Day Sonny”

  1. You are right Chuck. The physical and psychological scars are endless and sad.

  2. Frank, I love personal history. Where did your grandfather first settle? How did the family end up in Kentucky, or did you move there solo? Whatever you care to share, I would appreciate. My grandmother came to the US as a child in 1894 from Naples. My grandfather came to the US from Bari as a young man in 1910. My grandfather was grandma’s second husband. Her first husband, Louis Sirullo, was a brutal wife and child beater. He married my grandmother, Angela Giammateo, @ an early age. They had 3 daughters. My great Uncle Charlie saw this animal was going to kill his sister. So, he went to the Black Hand. They told Louis he could leave the state or be killed. Louis wisely picked the former, reportedly moving to Chicago. My grandma got an annulment. She never planned on remarrying until Stefano Spinelli wooed her. They had 3 boys, my Dad being the oldest.

  3. Raff, you are welcome. I waited to post something in your Father’s Day diary, because this is a tough topic for me, and had a bit of trouble composing it.

    I was saddened to see that we lost anther American to the war. A new IGTNT diary was posted last night. Scrolling back through the long list of those “I Got The News Today” diaries, one is struck by the huge numbers of kids who will grow up fatherless. Not to mention an even larger number whose dads have crippling wounds or brain damage. Those are just the scars that show. Then there are those who are crippled emotionally by the horrors, who will never be able to be “real” fathers to their kids because of the psychological trauma.

    I can’t believe the number of armchair commandos and chickenhawks who fail to learn from past failures, and want to throw more lives away on endless war.

    1. Chuck – exactly which endless war are you referring to? We are in a couple.

  4. Don de Drain, thanks for sharing your memories.
    Chuck, Thanks and I share your distaste for cigarettes.

  5. Raff,
    You know how I feel about you and your dad from our phone conversations. I must add our frequent commenter Darrell Carlson to that, since he had a similar life experience.

    I lost my father in 1974. He was a smoker, smoking unfiltered Camel cigarettes all his life. He did not have cancer, but had one of the worst cases of emphysema I have ever seen. He was 68 when he died, but looked as if he was 108. As a younger man, he was an athlete, and had a full ride college football scholarship. Went to school with Bear Bryant, among others–he liked to tell the story of how he used to make Bear shag balls for him when he practiced kicking. In those days, players usually played both offense and defense, and there was no such thing as “special teams.” He was powerfully built, but frail and wasted away at the end of his life. I hate cigarettes and tobacco. He had a Meerschaum pipe in his effects, but none of us kids wanted it. We threw it in the trash, along with all his ashtrays and lighters.

    I got a call from my mom and sister that Dad was near the end. He had gone to the Post Office that morning with my mom to check the mail. She said he was so out of breath that he had to stop and catch his breath two or three times while walking back to the car, leaning on a railing and a lamppost. He collapsed in his chair when they got home. Mom was an RN and knew it was bad. She called the ambulance because she couldn’t get him to the car, then called me immediately. My oldest son and I jumped in the car and took off for home, which was two states away. When we got there, he was unconscious, and Cheyne–Stokes respiration was really bad. I told him I was there, and so did my son. I held his hand and his grandson held his other hand. We had not been there ten minutes before he seemed to relax and slipped away. I have seen this before. People will manage to hold out when dying, and somewhere down deep, they know when it is OK to let go when the person they are waiting for gets there to say goodbye.

    I am glad I was there to be with him when he left us. Raff and Darrell did not get that privilege, and I know that leaves a void.

  6. Nick Spinelli

    My grandfather, Francesco Mascagni arrived in 1896 from Medicini/Bologna Italy via Genoa to NYC. Married Ida Gentilini and had 7 children in America.

  7. Rafflaw-

    Thank you very much for sharing that story. And thanks to everyone else who shared their stories. Years ago, after my father was diagnosed with cancer and given a short period of time to live, an extended family member who is a historian (he conducts interviews for a living) spent a weekend interviewing my father about his life. The bound transcript of that interview is a priceless possession of mine. He was a good father and had an amazing life. I saw him help many, many people as a professor, marriage counselor and author. He socialized with friends of different races and cultures at a time and place where that was not supposed to happen. He taught me and my siblings a great deal. Thanks for everything, Dad, and Happy Father’s Day!

  8. What exactly is a “GBers”?
    Gold Bricker? Green Bay fan? Got Barf?

  9. Frank, You taught me something new. Our family always celebrated St. Joseph’s Day. But, I never knew that was Father’s Day in modern Italy. All of my family came from Italy from the late 1800’s -1910. My grandma would make a special ricotta pie for St. Joseph’s Day. “Make you slap your momma,” it was so good.

  10. Happy Father’s Day to Mr. Mag. When you say Peking Duck I think of the hilarious scene in A Christmas Story when the family has “Chinese Turkey” for Christmas. I’ve see that @ least 20 times w/ my kids and still LMAO every time.

  11. Nick Spinelli

    No love from GBer’s today. How professional!! They were kind words to raff and all fathers. Hopefully Darren will come through, he’s a pro.


    Oh my, I guess some folks think GBers don’t have lives and families of their own. Our family celebrated Father’s Day at a favorite Chinese restaurant where me husband enjoyed his favorite dish–Peking/Beijing duck–as well as a few other Chinese specialties. We just returned from having dinner with my daughter, son-in-low, and granddaughter. Speaking for myself as a GBer–I have plenty of love for my family. They come first on holidays like Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, etc.

    1. Elaine – it is nice of you to defend the GBers, but I do happen to know that Chuck was commenting when one of my comments went into the Vortex of Doom and about the time Nick started complaining.

  12. Raff, God bless you. That is the comment that was eaten. Again, thanks for sharing some personal, tough memories. These type posts humanize us. The internets can be an impersonal jungle. Your old man looks down today, and every day, and is proud of you being the family man he would have been, if not for fate.

  13. Nick,
    I just recovered one of your comments. I couldn’t find a second one. I just got back from a Fathers Day lunch with my daughter so I haven’t been checking for spam for awhile.
    Thanks again to everyone! I hope you have had a great day.

  14. I’ll play a card like Chuck and surmise it’s anti Italian.

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