More than a “retired social security number”
January 23rd, 2014
I Googled my father today. No big deal, right? Except that he passed away 22 years ago this month. There was something in the air this morning. I was feeling his presence even more than I usually do, and I felt the need to reach out. I can tell you now that Googling a dead person is not the answer.
My dad was a techie in his days — or at least he thought of himself that way. He loved Radio Shack, a techie’s paradise back then, and tinkering with electronic parts at his worktable in our basement. When we moved from New York to Northern California in the eighties, he had to find a new place to tinker; basements out here just aren’t designed for that.
I’ll never forget the look on my mom’s face when she came home one day to a large hole in the wall next to the washing machine and dryer. My dad and an acquaintance had decided to take it upon themselves to install a light switch, and things had gone a little awry. The acquaintance never did return, and a professional electrician arrived the next day to finish the job and another guy to patch the wall.
But I digress.
Not sure what I was expecting to find about a person who lived and died before the Internet — or at least this incarnation of it. My dad wasn’t famous. He didn’t invent anything. And his brushes with the law were inconsequential. But he sure was loved, I can tell you that.
What I did find was a “death record” site that listed the dates of his birth and death and his “retired social security number.” A little irony there: we spend all our lives carefully guarding these numbers and keeping them secret, but when we die, they are splayed across the Web for anyone to see. I’m assuming they are not reissued the way telephone numbers are after a few years.
I also found his name on the Rutgers’ alumni site and in a few other nondescript spots.
But what I didn’t find was this.
Born December 18, 1924, Vincenzo Antonio Garone emigrated from southern Italy to the United States as a small child with his parents. First stop: Ellis Island where his named was changed to Vincent Anthony Garone. Second stop: the Bronx.
Spoke foreign languages like they were his mother tongue. No one could ever tell if he was a native English, Italian, Spanish, or Portuguese speaker. His ability to pick up languages was uncanny.
Served in the US Army during World War II as a translator. Didn’t like that a captain had a swastika paperweight on his desk, so he pocketed it when the captain was out of the room.
Instilled a love of travel and adventure in his three daughters when he took a chance and transplanted the family from New York to England in the 1970s, a gutsy move at the time. Spent five years showing them Europe and all its riches, history, and wonder.
I could go on and on. These are only little snippets of my father’s life. It’s just that I want more than a death record and a few short mentions for him.
Miss you, Vinnie G.