1010 WINS’ John Montone shares his perspective on fatherhood by remembering his dad, John Louis Montone.
He grew up in what was called a “cold water flat” in West New York, N.J., and like a lot of other first generation immigrants, my father, John Louis Montone, had a lot of brothers and sisters – about half of whom survived infancy.
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My father rarely talked about his father – for good reason, based on what I’ve been able to piece together. Carmine Montone was a violent drunk who once in the course of beating up my dad, swung a knife at him. The scar faded a bit over the years, but the emotional wounds never did.
LISTEN: John Montone Reflects On Father, John Louis Montone
My father’s hands always trembled and he suffered from a chronic anxiety disorder. I remember being embarrassed as a little boy when he couldn’t catch his breath in public and we had to get him to breathe into a paper bag to calm him down.
His attacks seemed to be set off by money worries. He ran an auto-body shop and experienced some tough times, it was during one such bad stretch that figuring it was more important to buy groceries and pay the mortgage, he stopped taking his blood pressure medication, the result was catastrophic. He suffered a massive stroke and spent his last years in a wheelchair, depending on my mother, brother and I to feed him and clean up after him when he went to the bathroom.
But my father’s life was certainly not all sorrow and pain. He was a really good guy, a friendly fellow whose company many people enjoyed. He had a quick wit and great comedic timing. When he was in the army a GI from Alabama inquired as to the ethnicity of the name Montone, my father, with his olive oil complexion, said “I’m Irish” and to his army buddies he would forever be “Johnny Irish.” He loved to tell jokes. My favorite was about the Arab who needed to make sure his camel drank enough water for a long trek across the desert. The punch line involved a couple of bricks and the camel’s testicles.
My father had a natural ear for music. He would whip out his harmonica and WHAM! I’ve tried and failed for decades to come close to producing the sounds he made. He was also a gifted artist. He oil painted brilliant landscapes, every leaf and flower full of colorful detail. And the man could cook. Oh brother, could he cook.
On his one day off he would go to early Sunday mass then come home and begin slicing the eggplant, roasting the peppers, and simmering the sauce that would become our Sunday feast. And as the kitchen filled up with the intoxicating aromas and Sinatra and Perry Como played on the radio, my father would pour himself a glass of scotch and light a cigar. Pretty soon his friends would start dropping in and he would hold court around our kitchen table, talking about the Depression, the war, and a freshwater quarry somewhere in the Jersey Meadowlands that was his oasis during the summers of his own boyhood.
And it was during those Sunday mornings I noticed that my father’s hands did not tremble and his breathing was easy.
I like to think of my dad there, in our kitchen, in his safe, and happy place.
Do you have a favorite memory of your father? Leave us a comment and let us know.
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