MY ITALIAN DAD IN NEW YORK
LOUIS "LOU" SALVATORELLI
b. November 16, 1917
A loving, living memoir of my father &
my experiences as his caregiver.
Geraldine M. Salvatorelli
A Life of Yelling, Laughing ...and Hiding
Gallery of Dad
Click any picture for enlargement and more
By 2150 one out of every three people in the U.S. will be over 60 years old.
Click any picture for enlargement and more
FACT: 76 MILLION BABY BOOMERS ARE APPROACHING OLD AGE.
Whether out of love or guilt, adult children have been rising to the occasion to care for aging parents.
Children of veterans returning from the Iraq War are joining these ranks in large numbers.
There are 42 million family care givers.
See: NYT, The New Old Age blog, "We Are Everywhere" by blog founder Jane Gross,
and author of "A Bittersweet Season: Caring For Our Aging Parents and Ourselves."
At 90, Dad's last chance for love was Elly.
She resembled Dad's Ex-girlfriend, Eva.
Elly's last boyfriend was older than Dad.
They met at J.J's funeral.
The "New Normal"
Geraldine (Daughter, 60) & Lou (Father, 91)
FACT: AMONG THE 65 MILLION CAREGIVERS
THE MAJORITY ARE CARING FOR SOMEONE
Killing Time at the Mt. Carmel "Italian" Senior Center
on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. He wasn't going there
for fun, dancing or the food "I only eat two meals a day," but because wanted
me to get a look at senior life. "This is what you have to look forward to."
"I'm too old for these places,I don't look it, everyone thinks I'm their age."
At 91 in the above photo he was "too old," and I was too young.
A BITTERSWEET SEASON: CARING FOR OUR AGING PARENTS
by Jane Gross
PASSAGES IN CAREGIVING: TURNING CHAOS INTO CONFIDENCE
BY Gail Sheehy
Fact: Adults over age 80 are the fastest growing segment of the population;
most will spend years dependent on others for the most basic needs.
That burden falls to their baby boomer children.
from The New Old Age blog. Jane Gross and Paula Span.
Dad, while Italian, was a great lover not only of Spanish women but of the Mexican guayabara shirt, a
Mexican wedding shirt that is also worn at funerals. The shirt has long been a symbol of the working class
it is a long-standing symbol of solidarity amongst Hispanics living in America.
On September 24, 2010 a powerful statement (about the guayabera as a Hispanic laborer's "uniform")
was made by United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez.
Appearing as a primary speaker at a U.S. congressional Subcommittee hearing on Immigration,
Citizenship and Border Security, President Rodriguez wore a finely tailored guayabera.
It's appropriate Dad would have adopted the shirt as his official retirement uniform the way other men
adopt velour since he's truly a Studs Terkel, Damon Runyonesqe kind of guy. Dad started wearing
the guayabara when he was dating Celeste, his Cuban girlfriend and commuting to work from East New York.
He owns about twenty guayabaras in assorted colors. He uses the pockets like drawers. Before he quit smoking, one pocket
was for cigarettes, another for the lighter, comb, pens leaving the bottom two for tissues and i.d. card.
AMSTERDAM NURSING HOME
He has matching p.j.'s but prefers the mismatched look.
I learn not to argue with a stubborn, proud, eccentric Italian man of 94.
I think it symbolizes his marriage to my mother, they were mismatched.
Dead thirty years, he has not stopped rebelling against her.
Whatsamatta, I'm growin a mustache.
Mealtime at The Amsterdam House Nursing Home in Manhattan. Dad's a
soup freak who attributes his longevity to a good diet.
He has eliminated many carbohydrates and all beef, ham, pork, veal and meats from
his diet with the exception of chicken, turkey and the occasional meatball.
Low fat, chocolatey cats, he eats these all day long like
cat nip. I think they take the place of cigarettes.
Tippy. Dad's first roommate when he and mom split.
Tippy was perched on top of the front seat of Dad's car
and raised his paw at me when I tried getting in. I had
to sit in the back. I was happy to see he had protection.
Dad likes to talk and I enjoy making conversation with him and I'm lucky
his mind while a lot slower is still sharp, lucid and full of observations and opinions.
It was an adjustment to navigate my way around the slower way his elderly mind works
and interacts with his brain and during that time I found the book listed below
HOW TO SAY IT to Seniors: Closing the Communication Gap with Our Elders
by David Solie, M.S., P.A.
And like many Italians, his thoughts are
best expressed by using the hand.
Yup. You. I'm talken'ta'you. When you reach
my age you eat all the ice cream you want too!
You follow me.
Adrienne, Granddaughter, mother of 3 steals
away from home for a G-pa visit.
Lou with great grandaughter Allyson (left)
and her best friend Katie.
Yakking it up intergenerational style.
Dad's first nursing home haircut with
hairdresser Sondra in the nursing home beauty parlor.
I had to check her out to make sure she was nice and he would be
well behaved. In the Bronx, while Dad was still living at home,
we went through four barbers exhausting almost every
one in the neighborhood.Now it's his favorite place.
He hits the beauty parlor every Thursday, I never imagined
when I signed him up he would
do something like this.
That's me in the beauty parlor mirror, special affects.
He was driving nurses and aides crazy with his
container alignment system for cookies and milk.
So I had to find a small table for his big table.
Bertha Hope, jazz pianist, member of the Jazz Musicians Foundation
brings music to the Amsterdam House and other homes and assisted living facilities.
Bertha & Kim Clarke playing the skinny bass.
Percy Brice, legendary drummer who played with
Harry Belafonte, George Shearing & Sarah Vaughn to name a few
performs at Dad's nursing home, The Amsterdam House.
In the background, Alex Layne on bass.
Bertha Hope and Percy Brice
Annette St. John, singer
Annette St. John, and Kim Clarke working it out on base.
LOU at 93 yrs. old!
Rare trip out of his room into main meeting hall at The Amsterdam House Nursing Home.
Dad's just not crazy about leaving his room...he's always been a homebody.
Again, with the hands. He's telling me how the room is
able to be identified according to the wallpaper by resident's with memory problems.
Proof of Age?
First days, in rehab, at the Amsterdam House Nursing Home, NYC.
Dad, wearing sunglasses "don't tell anyone I'm here."
In the first weeks after arriving in the nursing home,
all I heard was "when you gonna get me out of here."
Then there were moments of adjustment and acceptance.
This is a good place. You did good. I guess this is where
I'm gonna die. I guess I live here from now on.
Nothing as joyous as Elisabeth stopping by with a piece of
lemon meringue pie from Tom's. You remember Tom's from
Seinfeld. Dad lives right up the block from Tom's. It feels
more appropriate that I should be visiting him there and no
longer schlepping homemade meals for him up on the D-train to the
Bronx in my wheelie case as I had been 5 years.
Autographed photos of Jerry, Elaine, George & Kramer on the wall
inside but when I spoke to the owners about the profits generated as a result of
their celebrity, they didn't seem that excited.
Dad being attended to by Dio his aide.
Lunchtime at The Amsterdam House Nursing Home
Dio and Dad
I find a beauty in Dad's aging.
2011 Westy Award Recipient
Marion Gambardella, spiritual leader, and ordained minister at the prestigious
2011 Westy Awards where she was a recipient for her outstanding
leadership in the area of caregiver stress.
Marion runs Caregiver Stress therapy meetings once a month in Manhattan,
helping those of us who were sinking badly from it at one time or another.
Coincidentally, Marion's husband, the famous opera singer, Giuseppe Consiglio
is a resident of The Amsterdam Nursing Home with my Dad.
DAD'S PRE NURSING HOME DAYS
Early Winter, 2010
Rocking it out at the Sedgwick Senior Center, 2010.
Bob, Florence and Dad
Dad, holding court on Mom's famous love seat.
Briggs Avenue, Bronx, NY.
Getting bread ready to feed birds on his fire escape. The birdman of Briggs
I don't think there were enough legal, rent paying tenants left in the building to
complain. Photo in background with great grandaughter Julia at her Holy Communion party.
My brother wouldn't attend if I was there so I missed that one too. I have been banned from
the majority of family gatherings in involving his children. Tsk, tsk. I must be a terrible person.
Lou, at bus stop on way from Bailey Avenue Senior Center
about to soon be closed due to lack of attendance. We had to
take two buses. He loved to torture me with these arduous trips.
He spent many years frequenting the center in his younger old years
and wanted to reminisce. So we went a few times one of those afternoons he got a chance
to reunite with cook a tiny, cute Hispanic woman named Rosa I think Dad had a
crush on her. He met his primary care doctors at this center now it
has become a bit of a senior wasteland with a huge flat screen t.v.
where on one of those afternoons we watched the Michael Jackson funeral then decided to no longer
return there because it was too depressing. He used to know some of the Hispanic people who lived
in the senior building upstairs from where the center's main meeting rooms. We read
about the closing in the New York Times and never looked back.
Shortly after our last trip to the Bailey Avenue Center, Dad had to stop
traveling by bus. It had become too exhausting and stressful not just for him.
St. Philip Neri Church where I received my first Holy Communion, Confirmation, graduated and
attended High Mass in Latin and sang with a powerful pipe organ in the background along with
the Welch Chorale led by John Welch who was murdered years later in the lobby of his building.
Dad attended the senior center located in the basement below until there was a serious fire in the
church and the center had to be relocated. That's another story.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD
Celebrating 92 Birthday in Mc Donald's on 204th Street,
Dad thinks he's spotted his ex-girlfriend Eva who lives
nearby. Florence invited Eva to join us but she declined.
Dad when he realizes the woman was not Eva just someone
who looked a lot like her.
That's when he started doing what we all
do in situations of unrequited love -- eat a strawberry ice cream sundae.
Florence a good friend, award winning painter celebrating
her birthday around same time.
Florence was a free lance sketcher at Vogue magazine
same time Andy Warhol was free lancing. When she heard
he was being paid more she demanded to be paid same thing
and she got it.
Another day older. He says that every year on his birthday.
Bedford Park Barber Shop.
He went through about
four barbers in one year.
And refused to shave so once a week we
had to venture out to barber shops where
he'd find something wrong with every one.
That's my shadow behind Dad who is leaning against fence
on Mosholu Parkway, Bronx, NY, my childhood park
and his favorite, peaceful place to be. Being a caregiver starts to feel
like being a god. That's what my shadow looks like
cast over the balding grass where I used to sleigh ride when I was
Caregivers are definitely a godsend to the elderly
who are challenged by combination of emotions -- frailty, loss, fear, pride.
There were days I went to
ridiculous lengths to cheer
And there were days he let me know straight
out there were certain things that were not
going to change like his aversion to the
telephone and computers but never to
cake (see photo below).
Last time Dad wore that jacket.
It's p.j.'s now all day
all the time.
The Yankees stink this year.
Dinner ritual at 3001 Briggs Avenue, Bronx, NY.
Where's the *#*# doctor already. I'm waitin a half hour.
Oh, Hi, Dr. D.
MT. CARMEL ITALIAN SENIOR CENTER
Bob who drove everyone around especially to shops on
Arthur Avenue. He'd wait patiently as we darted in and
out getting our favorite Italian delicacies.
Marie (on the right wearing the cap) bakes the meanest cakes
in the east.
Femme Fatale of the senior circuit. Nicknamed "the predator." This one had all the
men wrapped around her finger and the wives and girlfriends carrying rope.
Charlie in the middle is the American Bandstand star on the
TANGLE WITH THE TANGO AND YOU'LL TANGLE WITH HIM
singer, pianist, driver, father, husband, grandfather, ladies man
Look Lou how many times do I have to tell you
I Don't Know the Words to Honeysuckle Rose.
Made me cry.
The Harbor Inn, City Island, Bronx, New York.
Dad with his best man, Cousin Paul's, wife Suzie.
You never know who is going to be left in the end.
The Broken Denture
& The Neighborhood Dental Lab out of
Sanford & Son.
Owner, dental lab, technician, mechanic, and cat lover.
Dad had hardwood floors in his bedroom where he dropped his dentures
late morning, breaking them in half. It was in the first few minutes after I had
arrived and I often spent that time relieved to learn that it was not him lying on the floor injured.
Those initial hours after arriving in the Bronx, no matter how often I repeated the ritual
were inevitably mixed with annoyance, culture shock and my recollections from Thomas Wolfe's
classic, You Can't Go Home Again and the vexing question, how much longer will I be doing this.
. "I got this guy right in the neighborhood," Dad says. And we bundle ourselves up and
take the walk to Jerome and 202nd Street. "This guy does all the work for the dentists
and the dentists get paid the big bucks. He told me to come in anytime I got a problem."
So there we are in a store that doesn't look like it has ever seen a good cleaning with
boxes and solutions piled up everywhere with a cat meandering around it all.
Dad still young and at it.
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Copyright ©2011 by Geraldine Salvatorelli