Monte. John Monte.

I couldn’t tell you why, but my dad had a pseudonym that he used for things like dinner reservations or those occasions when you’d get to a restaurant and have to wait for a table. “It’ll be about 20 minutes. Name please?” “Monte,” he’d say, sometimes adding on, “John Monte.” Where the name came from I have no idea, and why he needed it is anyone’s guess, too. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that “Cutrone” is sometimes not an easy name for folks to spell here in the States, so that might be the reason, or it may have had something to do with a calculated disassociation from a more infamous John Cutrone, a Mafioso in Brooklyn who met his untimely end in 1976. Whatever the reason, like an actor or sports star attempting to throw off the paparazzi so he could just have a quiet meal, it was accepted fact that when we went to a restaurant, my dad, the auto mechanic from Valley Stream, was John Monte.

I think about that sometimes when I make dinner reservations or call in to order a pizza. I half expect the name “Monte” to come out of my mouth someday, as I become more and more like my dad as the years pass. A good example: telephones. I hate calling people on the phone and I greet incoming calls with suspicion. This was my dad, too. To this day, my mom calls people up, just to chat. Dad, on the other hand, would announce whenever the phone would ring, “I’m not home.” Back then phones had no caller ID; they just rang and you picked up the receiver and said hello and if it was you who picked up the phone and if the person at the other end of the phone line asked for Mr. Cutrone or for your dad and if you caved, if you said, “Hold on a minute,” and motioned to him, Dad would glare at you and then after he got off the phone he’d give you hell. No one ever just called to chat with Dad; they called because they wanted him to help them do something, like fix a roof or move a wall. It’s no wonder he disliked the phone.

Dad worked up until he was almost 90. We worked at the same university, and sometimes I’d call his extension, usually because I needed something, and sometimes just to say hello. I’d dial 7-2295, and if he didn’t pick up in two rings, I knew he wasn’t at his desk. But when he did pick up, he’d answer with a somewhat singsongy hello, where the first syllable went up as the second syllable went lower. And then I’d say hello, and then he’d say what he always said when we were at work: “Hi guy.” He never said this at home, just at work. It’s what he said to all the guys who worked with him, and at work, I was just one of the guys. The guys who worked with him thought he was in his 60s, maybe 70s. He certainly did not look like he was 89. It was probably a decade or two that Dad would tell his fellow workers, if they asked how old he was, that he was 65. Sometimes that’s just how Dad was. He’d tell you what he thought you wanted to hear. That he was 65. That he felt fine. That his name was John Monte.

It’s our second Father’s Day without him. Days like Father’s Day are never easy when your dad is no longer here to wish a happy Father’s Day to. But we’ll gather all the same, my mom and my sister and Seth and me, and we will eat together. At the table, I will sit in Dad’s seat, because this is what I do now. I’ve done it since the day he died, and it felt odd then, and sometimes still does, but I know I am meant to sit there, and that I am meant to remind everyone that whenever we wished Dad a happy Father’s Day he’d always reply, “You mean Jack Ass Day,” and we will laugh. This year will be not as bad as the year before. Each year, some measure of sadness is replaced by a greater measure of… not sadness.

In Italy, Father’s Day is celebrated on the 19th of March: St. Joseph’s Day, and there is something particularly beautiful about that, as we celebrate a saint who cared for his family, protected them, provided for them, taught his son good, practical things. It is a perfectly logical day to celebrate all fathers, those we were given and those we have chosen. It certainly was the model that my dad followed. Perhaps if we celebrated on that day, too, when we wished Dad a happy Father’s Day, he would have simply said, “Thanks.”

That’s my dad and me at the Photobooth at Nunley’s Amusement Park in Baldwin, New York, probably about 1967 or 1968.


13 thoughts on “Monte. John Monte.

  1. Beverley Markowitz says:

    A great story and tribute, John, and a wonderful photo. Loss does ease over time but, thankfully, the memories stay cherished — and you have a trove of terrific times to sustain you.


  2. Vivian griffith says:

    Your dad would be so proud of you!
    Great writing.

  3. Chris Conrad says:

    My dad would have liked your dad. As always, I enjoy reading your posts. The special love shared with your family always shines through. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Jerri Duncan says:

    Dad made us dial for him, and sometimes speak for him. He hated the phone, too!

  5. Cammie Harris says:

    What a great memory! We used to greet my dad with a “Happy Jackass day” also. I think they got that phrase from grandpa Cutrone. PS Bob uses Igor when we order something or make reservation, his logic- too many Bobs or Harrises.

    • John Cutrone says:

      So it goes back a long way! That’s awesome. I wish I had known Grandpa Cutrone. I just realized you’re one of the few cousins who did. Please wish Igor a happy Father’s Day from us all.

  6. Dee says:

    John, I’m sure your dad would be happy to know you’re thinking of him today. I like the photo you shared.
    I’m thinking of my dad today, as well. I do miss him so!
    Dad protested about the fuss we made on Father’s Day. He was a modest man, but we knew he was pleased about all the attention he received on Father’s Day.
    Dad sat closest to the telephone at home, so he answered it. He was a policeman and very active in the community. He knew everybody, so he often had conversations with callers before passing the phone to the called party…. if they hadn’t forgotten who the call was for.

  7. Marjorie Hollis says:

    This is a lovely post. I, too, had a wonderful, quirky dad. They live on in our memories forever.

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