I wrote this nearly four years ago and am rerunning it today because my father-in-law died this afternoon.
Our Guy Sal
I am having trouble sleeping so I thought I would begin to tell you about some colorful people in my extended family starting with my father-in-law.
Sal is 91 years of age and was the first born of Italian immigrants. His mother had suffered several miscarriages before his birth and adopted a daughter. He was raised to be, as we call it in the greater NYC area, an IAP (Italian American Prince). He was followed by a brother a number of years later.
As a young man, he was a great athlete and a man about town. From what I hear, he left a trail of broken hearts. Then he met Helen whom he married seven months later. He owned a taxi and that was their only means of support.
With the cab business faltering, Sal was able to secure a job with Metromedia television as a cameraman. Remember Soupy Sales? On his show, he would talk to Uncle Sal -yup, that was my f-i-l. I believe many of the shows he was involved with were local to the NY area such as Sonny Fox, Wonderama, Sandy Becker, Bishop Sheen and Romper Room.
The show that all of you probably know, though, is The Honeymooners. He tells us stories of how Jackie Gleason never studied a script and the rest of the cast had to play off of his ad libbing!
Yankee fans, anyone? Yes, Sal was a cameraman for the live action of Yankee baseball and would, at times, be in the dug out (Joe DiMaggio was a jerk).
My favorite story was when Madeline Murray O’Hare was a guest on Bishop Sheen’s live show. Remember her? The woman who took prayer out of school and started an atheist’s society. Well, leave it to Sal. When she started spouting her anti-God rhetoric – I remind you this was live television – Sal started yelling, "You’re gonna burn in hell!" He was rushed off the set and didn’t lose his job because, well, those were different times. Besides, the bishop liked him.
Unfortunately, Sal had to do alot of shift work so he wasn’t around for alot of his four children’s day to day activities. However, they all love him and he loves them.
Eventually, Sal became a floor manager and then worked alone in the studio at night when things became automated. Helen convinced him to retire because she was afraid of his being alone.
Sal has had three major cancer surgeries (never needing chemo or radiation treatments), open heart surgery (the doctor never thought he would be alive the next day) and various other surgeries and conditions including mild Alzheimer’s. God has blessed him with a miraculous ability to heal quickly. It takes two full years to recover from open heart and he recovered in nine months or so. I believe God gave him this ability to heal quickly to save my m-i-l from going insane!!
As he didn’t have the time with his kids and grandkids to fully enjoy them, he dotes on his only greatgrandchild, my granddaughter, Isabella. We truly believe that one of the reasons he is alive today is because of that little girl. If he isn’t with her, he is talking about her. He has to be the one to feed her her bottle. When we are leaving their house, he tells her how much he is going to miss her and tries to lay the guilt to get us to come back soon!
We haven’t always gotten along but, after a big blow out between the two of us about seven years ago, he thinks I am the cat’s meow. He is still a bit spoiled but has mellowed with age.
Yup, I love my father-in-law, Sal.