It’s Father’s Day again.
My Dad taught me so much. Not through lectures or lessons — but by example.
He was an artist but a realist. He worked as the art director for the local TV station but quit when the station was bought by new owners he didn’t like. He then started his own business as a sign painter in the days before computers, when if you wanted lettering on your truck for your business, someone had to actually paint it on the truck for you. He worked out of the basement of our house, so he was always home and there for me.
He taught me about respecting women, because he loved my mother and never abused her. He taught me about the importance of honesty and doing the right thing even when no one would know. He never drank or used foul language, and I grew up never drinking or cursing. He never discouraged me from my interests in music or drama or any other crazy projects I had as a kid.
He taught me to be independent and enjoy life — and I think that was a lesson all of his kids learned, as each of us ended up starting our own businesses and/or being very independent in our lives.
He had a great sense of humor, loving his Pogo books and puns. I even got him laughing at Monty Python.
One Christmas, we hung the Christmas tree upside down from the ceiling. Another time, he got a huge one, put it in the living room so everyone driving by could see it from the window, and then put the top of the tree on the roof so it looked like it had crashed through the ceiling.
And our house was always full of kids and music and art, not just from me and my two brothers and one sister, but from lots of neighborhood kids who hung out there while mom made Chef Boy-ar-dee pizzas for everyone.
I had a happy childhood, and it wasn’t until I was older that I realized it. We always saw happy families on TV sitcoms and thought that was normal, but I recall it was my friend Mark Waid in High School who opened my eyes. He pointed out that most of my friends came from broken families, and the reason everyone liked to hang out at our house was because “everybody wanted to be a Ventrella” and have a happy family.
He died soon after I had graduated from law school. He had smoked a pipe most of his life and the lung cancer got him.
But I knew he was proud of me and I was proud of him.