Tomorrow is my beloved father's birthday. I thought an honorable way to pay homage to this man I referred to as 'dad,' would be to write about him in his memory. Yianni, as his mother named him, was born appropriately on April fools day. Not because he was a fool by any means! Simply because by nature he was a very trusting soul. He actually believed in people and trusted they were truthful. Disheveled in his appearance, Yianni was sloppy and unkempt. He had unpredictable mannerisms and weird affectations that were positively alien to those who witnessed them. He was completely uncoordinated and clumsy in his speech. His sentences seemed cryptic and each word was so grossly mispronounced, we quite literally had to decipher each word as if we were playing a never ending game of scrabble.
He was the image of a man one may choose to edit out of their consciousness. He looked beaten and exhausted. His hair was clumped up on the top of his head like a birds nest. He looked as if he had just narrrowly escaped death...very skillfully, yet again! He was, if truth be known, on a very vacuous level an embarrassment to me most of my teenage life. He wasn't going to make the cover of GQ or win any awards any time soon. In fact, he was clinically deaf, sporting an antiquated hearing aid that stuck out of the side of his head like a fetus, AND he was legally blind. He wore these thick glasses resembling headlights. Driving with him was always a near death experience and no wonder! What we essentially had in control of our vehicle was "the Pinball Wizard.' He was a real estate broker and his legacy emulated that of "Death of A Salesman." In short, this man seemingly struggled effortlessly. He was the father of an autistic child before autism could speak. At a prehistoric time when autism was mislabelled 'retarded.' He was under paid, under laid, and painfully DEVALUED! Despite it all, this man woke up every morning @ 7am for 50 years and went to work. He came home every night @ 7pm with a smile and a story. He was a great storyteller. He told 'big fish' tales that had us engaged and wondering if my father believed the fictitious stories he told. He did not drink and he NEVER laid a hand on us. That was Despina's (my mom) department. He was as gentle as a lamb, EXCEPT during football, baseball and basketball season. A fervent lover of sports, he would often scream or holler at the TV during ALL games as if he was the coach from the couch. He would get so heated, that it would set off his hearing aid into a deafening pitch which immediately provoked and aggravated my brother into a banging fit. An autistic child's favorite pastime!
Yes, Yianni was in arguably as imperfect as they come. Yianni was the best kept secret. He may have left the world unnoticed by most....but to me he is the very reason I breathe, impart love and lend laughter into the world through my chosen path as a Comic. In essence, he really is a part of me that lives on. He was my inspiration, my mentor, my determination and my beloved father. I love you Dad. Rest in peace.
Your loving daughter,