Joseph A. Pinto

barflypoet & author of dark fiction

“Christ, you look like shit.”

Those were my exact words over seven years ago when my dad arrived early on a Sunday morning to help renovate my basement. And he really did look like shit. His face was white as a ghost. “I’m fine,” my dad replied, “just must’ve eaten something funny last night.”

If only that had been the problem. Of course, neither of us knew there was a problem. But as the morning wore on, my father’s strength ebbed. I remember him huffing and puffing as we carried a panel of Sheetrock down the stairs, and I can still feel the pangs of my initial reaction – my heart simply sank. I kept a poker face, but it was the first time in my life that I realized my dad was getting older. It hurt.

I never wanted my dad to age. I never had him around much when he was young. My father worked grueling hours – typically three in the morning until nearly four if not later into the afternoon – as a partner in our family’s waste management business. It doesn’t get any more stereotypical than that; an Italian Jersey boy in the garbage business. My father worked insane hours even as a child. His skills were self-taught; he learned to repair gas & diesel engines by going to the junkyard, taking them apart & putting them back together again. By the time he was a teenager, he was repairing trucks for real. That was in addition to driving the trucks, running the yard, going to school & being involved in wrestling and football. Just think for a moment what the kids of today do to pass time.

My father always needed to know how something worked. Like those engines, he started by taking it apart. I guess you’d call it “reverse engineering.” I used to joke that he missed his calling from NASA. For some people, magic works through their hands, like a musician or surgeon. A writer. My dad offered his help to anyone in need of a repair or a project too big to handle on their own. He made the time, too, even after working a long day or on a weekend when he could’ve been relaxing. He installed new siding on a neighbor’s house once. That’s right – siding on a complete house. My father owned a garbage business, not a siding company. He rented the necessary equipment and off he went. You would never have known a professional didn’t do it. When I questioned how he achieved such a thing, my father answered quite simply, “I just watched a company doing it down the block and figured the rest out.”

Figured it out. It was that simple, that easy. My father figured everything out. He was the modern-day MacGyver. And with that, I’ve always held one belief – the day my dad stopped using his hands would be the day he’d die.

Years after renovating his own house and swearing he’d never go through something like that again, my dad was now toiling with mine. I asked for help, but here he was, basically doing it on his own. I was left watching…until he’d send me on a coffee run lol. “But I wanna do it,” I’d complain as he hustled about with my current house repair of the week. “You can watch. I’ll get done quicker that way,” he’d reply, a smirk across his face.

Watching my dad work was like watching James Brown perform. Sure, he’d share the soul, but he was the only one capable of conjuring it. I watched my dad many, many hours over in my lifetime. And I still hadn’t “figured it out.”

So… I never wanted my dad to age. Even as I became a man, I still felt like a child in his presence. He was larger than life. My father stood all of 5 foot five, and yet he loomed over me like a giant. A superhero. It’s hard to adequately describe the feeling; to this day, I can’t quite put a finger on it. Was it due to immaturity on my behalf, or some mystical aura my dad possessed? Do all fathers make their children feel that way? Will I do so for my own daughter? Like the elusiveness of Santa Claus, I suppose that’s part of the magic…

My father could barely walk up the stairs after taking that panel of Sheetrock down into the basement. He told me he needed a few seconds to catch his breath. About ten minutes later, he was no better. That’s when I told him to go home and get some rest. My father agreed; that alone was a rarity. “Probably food poisoning,” he muttered and walked slowly to his truck.

In life, intersecting points sometimes build to a crescendo, but you never see them. You’re completely unaware. If read in a book or seen in a movie, the foreshadowing might appear clearer.

Probably food poisoning.

If only.

A few weeks later, my mother called and told me they received news from my father’s doctor…

(Part Two: Phone Booths and Four Words coming soon)

November 1 – Purple Hope and Saints

16 thoughts on “Part 1: Renovations; Shaken Foundations

  1. Hunter Shea says:

    Your father sounds like he was a great man. Hell, I know he was because he raised one hell of a son.

    1. Joseph Pinto says:

      He was a great man. Thank you kindly, brother!

  2. Joseph, as always your writing is beautiful and reflective–captivating. =)

    1. Joseph Pinto says:

      Hi Brittany! Thank you very much, sweetie…there is nothing fancy about my prose here, just me sitting down sharing the story of my dad as though you might be sitting next to me. I appreciate your support 🙂

      1. Of course, any time. This world needs more passionate writers–writers who compose with purpose. Keep doing what you do. =)

        Warmest regards,

      2. Joseph Pinto says:

        Thank you, sweetie 🙂 Very kind of you! Words such as your own provide all the fuel I need 🙂 xo

  3. Paul D. Dail says:

    To quote from The Breakfast Club, “I think your old man and my old man should get together and go bowling.” Except in a positive way, you know? Because they both sound like good men.

    When I was young, my father was a cowboy, at least to me. He was actually an agricultural science professor, but that meant we were always around the farm. He’s still around, but a handful of years ago, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. So I know what you mean when you talk about the idea of your father aging, especially in a way that seems to rob them of some of their lifelong vibrancy.

    1. Joseph Pinto says:

      Great quote, Paul!

      Fathers…well, great fathers…carry a mysticism about them. It’s there, wholly tangible and yet not all the same while.

      I hope your dad is doing ok now

  4. marcie horwitz says:

    I want to read more, we all have our stories to share. i almost said the same thing about my dad, noticing “his color was off”

    1. Joseph Pinto says:

      Hi Marcie, welcome to my blog! Thank you for your support & interest! 🙂
      I’ll be posting several more parts to my father’s personal story that will go through November 16. After that, my blog will feature my regular samplings of poetry & fiction updates, author support and interviews, as well my continued efforts for pancreatic cancer advocacy. If you’d like to read nothing but news, updates & personal stories shared by others involving pancreatic cancer, please join my other free site ‘Purple Hope’ at
      It’s a pleasure to meet you. I am also sorry to hear of your father as well xo

    1. Joseph Pinto says:

      Thank you very much, Renae! I hope you read the posts to follow; there are several more parts to this 🙂
      I appreciate all your support!

  5. May Desert Flower says:

    A wonderful tribute for your dad…an amazing man I can tell 🙂

    1. Joseph Pinto says:

      Thank you very much, Ms May 🙂 I appreciate you following along my series 🙂

      1. May Desert Flower says:

        It is a difficult story to write for you but a truly great homage …your dad would be proud 🙂

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