Until this moment, I have never seen the words Vinnyfonfonsett Street in print.
One reason is there’s no such thing.
The other is that the words themselves have only been spoken.
The speaker was my father, Jack Thomas Meinero.
The words were his invention, as far as we could tell. I or my brothers or sister would ask him where something was, and he say some number and Vinnyfonfonsett Street.
And he and we laughed it off.
Because one of my dad’s most unusual traits was his ability to conjure words. He had specific words that were unique to him and, as far as I can tell, nowhere in Webster’s.
The word that has come to mind most in the last 36 days is eaf. There’s a family disagreement on the spelling – some believe it’s eef. But there’s no disagreement on who it describes.
As in “Trump. What an eaf!”
A disgusting substance is kak, which is short for kakiolo. This might not have been completely his invention. After Trump was elected, The New Yorker used the Greek word kakistocracy to describe the government being formed. So there’s an outside chance my father derived kak from the Greek.
One of the advantages of being a creative wordsmith is that it makes you an amazing storyteller and lecturer. Especially when you combine descriptive language with an amazing ability to mimic voices and alter tones.
When my brother, Jared, was around 11 or 12, he was enamored with a fried chicken place on the main drag in our town. My father was always suspicious about the quality of meat in that kind of place, and wanted my brother to stop going there.
“They take a bunch of chickens on a long walk, “ he told my brother. “And the ones that don’t make it end up at that fried chicken place.”
He had quite an imagination. And that might only have been his third best trait.
In second place was his preternatural strength. In the early 1960s my aunt had a Fiat, a car just over from Italy. There was a tight spot in front of her apartment building. So my father decided to park the car for her. First, he dragged one end of the car into the spot and then the other.
I didn’t see that for myself – I only know that from witnesses, one of whom described it without prompting 15 years after the fact and with an awe that I wouldn’t have expected from someone I’d never met before.
But I wasn’t surprised. It wasn’t like I hadn’t seen him lift more things in one hand that I’ve ever been able with two.
First place, though, belongs to his determination.
He was a man who didn’t finish high school and who, when he married my mom 65 years ago, was mounting truck tires at a time when they didn’t use the machines they have now.
But he became a salesman and spent 45 years at Firestone. And he was determined that his kids and grandkids would go places he could only imagine. We have degrees and careers that he helped put in our hands, and I can never go a day without marveling at how hard he worked. Not so much for himself, but for the future. Our future.
After today, that future will go on without him. That’s hard to believe and hard to write. I love him, as my mom, my siblings and our spouses and kids do — and always will.
We’ll cry. But as he wished, we’ll also laugh.
We’ll make a left turn onto Vinnyfonfonsett Street, and watch out for eafs.