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The Consigliere

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“Tom Hagen was given a hot dish of spaghetti with oily rich tomato sauce, the taste of which he had never forgotten…”
- The Godfather (P. 46)

New York City
The Bronx
1921

Tom Hagen gasped, his body jerking violently awake as the last vestiges of his nightmare kept hold of him into consciousness, clouding his thoughts.

His dream had been so vivid, so real, it was as if it had been imprinted on his brain like a memory. In his dream, Tom had been blind, tapping a white cane as he wandered aimlessly down the street - with no family, no sympathy, no purpose, but to survive.

At the age of eleven, young Tom Hagen found himself curled up on his side in the back of a hallway in the Bronx. His heart rate began to slowly level out as the nightmare left him, but this imagined terror was only replaced by the horror of his true existence.

Rubbing at his painfully itchy eye with the back of his hand, Tom curled further into himself. His eye infection was getting worse, and it wasn’t like anyone was going to help him. After all, he was just an orphan who wandered the streets and slept in hallways.

As the sun began to set outside, the cool air of the first days of Autumn had Tom tugging his thin jacket tighter around his slender frame. He thought he heard voices but pushed them from his mind. He would stay where he was until the owner found him and kicked him back out on the street. That’s what his life had become. A never ending shuffle between stores, looking for shelter and a warm place to sleep. When he heard the definite footfalls of someone approaching down the wooden hallway, Tom squeezed his eyes shut, silently willing the owner to show him some small mercy and let him spend the night.

“Hey, are you okay?”

Tom opened his eyes. Something about the newcomer’s voice seemed downright familiar - the faint Italian accent pulling at his memories.

Tom Hagen rolled over his shoulder, craning his neck to get a look at the store owner, only to discover a boy with a crop of bushy, curly hair standing in the hallway behind him.

“Tommy? Tommy Hagen?”

“Sonny?” His clouded mind finally clicked with recognition. But vision blurred by both the infection and his unfallen tears, Tom strained to make out the face of his old friend. “Is that you?”

“Yeah, it’s me. What’re ya doin’ here? Woah,” Sonny interjected before Tom could answer his initial line of questioning. “what’s wrong with your eye?!”

Tom remained silent, his eyes falling to the floor under Sonny’s feet.

No one had dared go near him since the infection had taken hold. Neighbors whispered that he had caught or inherited it from his mother and so therefore it could be caught from him. He was shunned. This was why Tom felt shock rip through his small frame like a bolt of lightning when the young Italian knelt beside him, placing a hand on his forehead to better get a look at the infection.

“You look beautiful.” The close-mouthed smile and friendly one-two slap on the cheek from his old friend had Tom laughing for the first time in weeks. “What’re you doing here?”

“I…” Tom paused. “I've just got nowhere else to go.”

Sonny studied his friend carefully for a long moment before nodding, as if he had made up his mind.

“C’mon,” Sonny easily, indeed almost gracefully, rose to his feet, extending a hand to Tom. “You’re coming home with me. Ma will feed ya a nice dinner, eh? You’re wasting away to nothin’ out here.”

Tom accepted his friends hand without a second thought. Despite his fiery temper, Santino Corleone was a warm-hearted boy who inspired trust, and was fiercely protective of those he considered under his care. Sonny had been one of Tom's school friends before everything in his life had begun falling apart and now, Tom thought, he had never been so happy to see someone before in his whole eleven years of life.

Without another word of questioning, Sonny led Tom out of the grocery and down the busy Bronx street. Street vendors flanked them on either side, honest families making their living selling fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, and cured meats - the vibrant pops of color breathing life into the neighborhood. Children chased each other down the street, their ratty clothes stained with dirt from a day of fun. Men in suits walked with their heads held high as they made their way home to their wives after a hard day’s work. Women sat together on the steps of their tenements, gossiping about the goings-on in the neighborhood. Nothing got past their eagle eyes. Tom thought he noticed one group in particular whispering as they watched him and Sonny pass.

“Ma!” Sonny yelled loudly before the front door to the apartment house was even open. “We got company!”

“Santino!” Carmela Corleone cooed at the same volume level as her son. Appearing from the kitchen, the Italian woman greeted her son warmly, kissing both of his cheeks before releasing him from her crushing hug. All of this was done with a baby who could be no older than a year bouncing on her hip. Her presence filled Tom’s nostrils with the smell of sweet peppers, causing his empty stomach to growl loudly. This drew mother and son’s attention back to their guest.

“Who is your paisan?

“This is Tommy, Ma.”

“Ah, you Santino’s little playmate!”

Mama Corleone had a heavy Italian accent that Tom could barely understand. But her dark eyes and the small smile that spread on her olive-skinned face was truly friendly.

“Yes ma’am.” Tom offered with a tight-lipped smile and a nod.

The Italian woman seemed to look him up and down before her eyes settled on his infection. Tom braced himself for the inevitable kick out the door.

“He’s so skinny!” Mama Corleone exclaimed instead, gesturing toward the newcomer. She leveled her son with a disappointed gaze, as if she blamed Santino for not feeding his friend quite enough.

“Come, come,” Mama Corleone grabbed Tom’s small hand in her own, leading him further into the apartment. “You mangia!

“Ma, is Pa home?” Sonny questioned, following closely behind.

In way of answer, Mama Corleone nodded toward a closed door across the living room.

In a few seconds, a spread of fried peppers, mozzarella, tomato, and bread was laid out on the kitchen table. Tom filled his small plate with food and accepted a hunk of bread that Sonny had torn from the loaf with his hands. Tom began at his food, eagerly skewering the colorful vegetables on his fork, but then stopped when he noticed Sonny across the table from him. The Italian youth had used his bread as a utensil, picking up a pile of peppers from the pan in the center of the table, and then folding the bread back over on itself to form a haphazard sandwich.

Taking a large bite, Sonny looked up to meet his friend's interested gaze. Smiling, he spoke around his mouthful of food.

“You’re still eatin’ like the Irish.”

The door across the living room swinging open drew Tom’s attention.

Grazi, Godfather! Grazi!

A wiry man with eyebrows as thick as caterpillars stood holding the door as an elderly woman with her hair pulled back into a bun and an imposing man, whose mere presence seemed to command the room, stepped out. This man had sharp features, a well-groomed mustache, and wore a fitted, brown, three-piece suit. With his hands clasped behind his back, he nodded warmly, accepting the praise the older woman was showering upon him.

Prego, Senora Ferucci. You need not worry about this matter anymore.”

Grazi, Don Corleone!”

The Senora’s eyes overflowed with tears and the Don slowly, deliberately, placed a calming hand on her shoulder, subtly conveying to her his understanding.

This, was the heart of the Don. Don Vito Corleone was a man to whom everybody came for help, and never were they disappointed. He made no empty promises, nor the cowardly excuse that his hands were tied by more powerful forces in the world than himself. It was not necessary that he be your friend, it was not even important that you had no means with which to repay him. Only one thing was required. That you, you yourself, proclaim your friendship. And then, no matter how poor or powerless the petitioner, Don Corleone would take that man’s troubles to his heart. And he would let nothing stand in the way of a solution to that woe. His reward? Friendship, the respectful title of “Don,” and sometimes the more affectionate salutation of “Godfather.” And perhaps, to show respect only, never for profit, some humble gift - a gallon of homemade wine or a basket of peppered taralles specially baked to grace his Christmas table. It was understood, it was mere good manners, to proclaim that you were in his debt and that he had the right to call upon you at any time to redeem your debt by some small service.

Senora Ferucci clutched the Don’s large, warm hand in her tiny, frail ones, continuing to mutter her thanks in Italian as the Don himself led her slowly over to his table.

A simple glance from her husband was all the dutiful Carmela Corleone needed before she was busying herself in the kitchen. A few moments later, the younger woman sat down beside her elder with two glasses of black, homemade wine.

As Senora Ferrucci began to get her wits back about her, smiling easily at the baby Mama Corleone held in her lap, Sonny jumped from his own seat at the table. Running up to his father, Sonny Corleone called for Tom to follow him with a wave. Tom Hagen made his way to the Don at a slower pace, knowing full well that Sonny’s father was known as a “Man of Respect” in the neighborhood.

“Santino,” The Don addressed his eldest son warmly. “What can I do for you.”

“Can we talk in private, Pa?”

An amused twinkle lit the Don’s eyes as he watched his son glance back over his shoulder at the two women now seated at the kitchen table. With all the innocence of youth, Santino was clearly imitating one of his father’s countless friends, like Senora Ferrucci, who he had witnessed ask their Godfather for help over the years.

Without a word, the Don waved the two young boys into his office before following in behind them.

“Genco,” Vito Corleone turned back to his consigliere, and oldest friend, who had made a move to follow them. “I don’t think your services are required for this particular request.”

With a laugh, Genco Abbandando nodded his farewell.

The Don easily pulled a chair to sit next to its twin in front of his desk, which sat in the center of the intimately small room. Tom followed the silent directive, lowering himself into the chair. Sonny, however, remained standing.

“Alright, my boy,” the Don prompted his son, settling into his large leather chair on the opposite side of the desk. “What is it that brings you to me.”

“Tommy’s going to be living here from now on.”

The German-Irish youth’s eyes became like saucers at the words and the tone in which they were delivered. Sonny wasn’t so much asking his father as he was telling him. Tom’s head snapped to face his friend.

Determination lined Sonny’s cupid face as he continued.

“I found him sleeping in the back of Abbandando’s grocery. He’s got nowhere to go. No one to take care of him. He can stay in Fredo’s and my room. He won't make no trouble, I can promise you that. I've known him for a while now. I mean look at him! Scrawny kid like him won't be gettin’ into nothin’.”

Not one who so loved the sound of his own voice, the Don believed a man should never speak without thought. This was why, even in his youth, he was known as a man of reason. The Don leaned back in his seat, studying the pair of eleven-year-old boys before him. The young Tom Hagen looked downright terrified at Sonny’s delivery of the pointed request, but his eyes shone with the gratitude of someone who had never been shown such brotherly love. Sonny, for his part, wasn’t giving up an inch. It seemed everyday the boy was gaining more and more of his father's tenacity - even if he lacked a certain subtlety to pair with it.

“It’s getting late.” Don Corleone finally started matter-of-factly in his permanent soft and reasonable tone. “Why don’t you two go prepare for supper.”

Sonny nodded, understanding the hidden finality in his father’s words. Turning on the balls of his feet, Sonny Corleone made his way to the door with Tom Hagen close behind.

“Santino.” The Don called, bringing his eldest son to a halt once he had opened the door. Understanding the timing, Sonny pointed Tom toward the bathroom before turning back to face his father, closing the door behind him once more.

“Demands will get you little in this life. But reason and cooperation will make you many friends. Friendship is everything. It's almost the equal of family. Never forget that.”

“Yes, sir.” Sonny nodded curtly, pushing down the instinctual spike of anger at the rebuke and instead attempting to focus on his father's intended lesson.

“Good.” Don Corleone came to stand in front of his son, placing his hands on Santino’s squared shoulders. “The heart you’ve shown here today pleases me. Now go, clean yourself up for your mother.”

____________________________________

An hour later the Don’s small Italian family - wife Carmela and sons Santino, Frederico, and baby Michael - were seated around the table for dinner with the young Tom Hagen. Mama Corleone had prepared her special handmade spaghetti and meatballs with an oily rich tomato sauce. Tom thought he had never tasted anything quite so good. The German-Irish youth practically inhaled his food, continually refilling his plate from the dishes laid out family style across the table. Between him and Santino, an entire loaf of fresh baked bread was demolished. Tom didn’t make the same headway on the small glass of black wine that Mama Corleone offered him, however, the dry liquid proving foreign and unappealing on his lips.

After dinner, the three older boys retired to their room to find a metal folding cot spread out on the floor at the foot of Sonny’s bed - complete with folded quilt and pillow. Before long, Sonny and Fredo decided to burn off some pent-up energy with an impromptu late-night wrestling session. Tom, for his part, simply sat crisscross on his cot and observed his new roommate's tactics. Sonny clearly believed that the best defense was a good offense, but his softer side shone through in the way he allowed his brother, five years his junior, to get the upper hand and pin him to the wooden floor boards. What the younger boy lacked in raw tenacity, however, he made up for in physical strength. It wouldn’t be many years before Fredo would be winning his own battles, Tom thought.

“Alright, I give, Fredo, I give!” Sonny laughed, tapping his brother's thigh with his free hand where he laid face down on the floor. His other hand was currently being held to the small of his back by his little brother, who sat straddling Sonny like a horse.

“What seems to be going on in here, huh?”

The three boys heads snapped around to find a stout man with a round face and a bowler hat leaning in the doorway.

“I got Sonny!” Fredo called gleefully, tightening his grip on his brother.

“Oh yeah?”

The man was grinning happily as he made his way over to the brothers, crouching down beside them.

“Ya know, the higher up ya pin your brothers arm, the more effective the hold.”

As he spoke, the man gently guided Fredo’s hands, sliding Sonny’s left wrist further up his own back.

“Ahh! Okay, Clemenza, I think he’s got it!”

Peter Clemenza laughed, picking Fredo up off his brother and depositing him upright on his bed. Meanwhile, Sonny pushed himself up onto his feet and stretched his sore shoulder out across his chest.

“Teach us more moves!” Fredo squealed excitedly in a high-pitched voice. Grabbing at Clemenza's meaty hand with his six-year-old fingers, The young boy tried to overpower the man standing beside him. Even though the attempt was futile, Fredo continued tugging at Clemenza’s arm in an attempt to replicate the move he had just been taught on his brother. Though the middle Corleone boy’s strength wouldn’t begin to move the hardened street soldier, the caporegime allowed Fredo to go through the motions until Clemenza's fist was lodged between his own shoulder blades.

“Maybe tomorrow, huh? Your father is waitin’ on me.” Clemenza easily unfolded himself from Fredo’s hold, patting the boy on the back affectionately once he had turned back around. “But there is a little something in the kitchen I was hoping you could help me out with…”

Sonny and Fredo gasped with recognition, racing each other out of the room. Tom didn’t quite understand what was going on, but took direction from the other boys and trailed not far behind.

Clemenza laughed to himself, shaking his head with affection before exiting the room himself. As one of the Don’s Caporegimes, Clemenza was in charge of one of the Corleone family’s two “crews” of soldiers. He spent a great deal of time at the Corleone’s apartment house, and took every opportunity he got to spoil the Don’s kids. He was always bringing them over gifts, and often taking them on outings when the Don got too busy. He loved the little rascals and wouldn’t hesitate to lay his life down for any one of them.

When Clemenza stepped into the Don’s office, he noted that Genco Abbandando had already arrived, leaning casually against the side table as was his custom. As consigliere, or counselor, Genco held the most vital subordinate position in the family business.

“Nazorine sent cannolis.” Clemenza closed the door behind him and removed his hat.

“Nazorine is a good friend,” Don Corleone’s lips quirked into a small smile, “and an even better baker. Be sure to pass on my
gratitude for such a gracious gift.”

“Consider it done.”

The Don nodded and clasped his hands on the desk in front of him, looking between consigliere and caporegime. The air in the room palpably shifted as the easy conversation shifted to talk of business.

“What have you learned?”

“Tom Hagen is the son of Martin and Bridget Hagen.” Genco cut straight to the heart of the matter, laying out the facts succinctly and without show of emotion, as was the way of a good Sicilian consigliere. “Six months ago, Bridget Hagen died of pneumonia. Martin Hagen was a heavy drinker who, torn up with grief, became a hopeless drunk after his wife’s death. A hard-working carpenter, he had never done a dishonest thing in his life. But his drinking destroyed his life and finally killed him. Tom, and his younger sister Kacey, were admitted to St. Mary’s Orphanage. Kacey has since been placed in a foster home, but Tom ran away before his first week was up.”

“The orphanage couldn’t find him?”

Genco shook his head.

“They never looked. The social agencies aren’t big on following up cases of eleven-year-old boys who are so ungrateful as to run away from their charity.”

Vito nodded his understanding, but it was Clemenza who picked up the story.

“My guys in the neighborhood say that Bridget went blind before she died. That they stay away from Tom because she’s where he got his infection from. They say he’s doomed to die just like his mother did.”

Don Vito Corleone stood from his leather chair and walked the three paces to the window. The Don watched people bustling about the darkened street below him and continued to listen as his consigliere and caporegime continued their discussion.

“I just got a look at the kids eye myself and it didn’t look so good.”

“With the right medical treatment I’m sure Tom will be just fine.” Genco raised an eyebrow at Clemenza. “You don’t seem so keen on letting the boy live here.”

“Ay, oh,” Clemenza threw his hands up in defense. “I’m just tellin’ ya what I’ve heard. If the Don decides to adopt the kid, I’ll treat him as one of my own.”

“Without any brothers, Tom is the last one to carry on his family’s name.” The Don spoke up suddenly, drawing Genco and Clemenza’s eyes. Turning from the window, Vito Corleone leaned back against the sill with a sigh. “No, Tom will never be a Corleone. I could not do his father such a disservice. But he will stay in my home. He will eat of my food and live under my protection. I want him treated with respect - as if he were of my own blood.”

Clemenza and Genco nodded their understanding. When Don Vito Corleone made a decision, the decision was final. Now it need only to be carried out to the fullest extent.

“Genco, set an appointment for Tom tomorrow. Not with one of our men. Make it with someone who specializes in this type of care.”

Genco Abbandando pulled his small, black, leather-bound notebook from the pocket of his vest and quickly jotted down his Don’s instructions. Returning the book to its permanent position on his person and smoothing down the pocket, the consigliere was dismissed and grabbed one of the few remaining cannolis that the children had left before heading towards home. The apartment he lived in with his wife and two young girls was only a ten minute walk from the Corleone’s, and Genco enjoyed the chill that hung in the early Autumn air.

When the Don had called him back to his apartment house to inquire about the young Tom Hagen, Genco had known immediately how all was to play out. Once he had discovered that the German-Irish youth indeed had no living guardians, there had been no question in his mind as to what his Don would do. Vito - who had been all but adopted by Genco’s own father when he first came to America, alone, as a twelve-year-old boy - had too big of a heart for anything less.

When Genco unlocked the front door to his apartment he found his wife sitting at the table. Kissing her softly, the Sicilian smiled. Thanks to his due diligence, he had already done his research. As the Corleone family consigliere, he was a busy man. Free time could be hard to come by. But he would have plenty of time to spend with his wife this evening, as he already had in mind the perfect doctor for the Don’s new charge.

____________________________________

Tom Hagen awoke the next morning slowly, easing back into consciousness after a long night’s rest. The early morning sun was beginning to stream in through the window. Rubbing at his painfully inflamed eye, Tom stretched out his back, noting that for the first time in months, it wasn’t sore from an unforgiving night spent on pavement. Slipping out from under the covers, Tom tiptoed his way out of the small bedroom, being sure not to wake Sonny or Fredo, who were still asleep in their beds. Sonny’s clothes were big on him, the loose fabric overwhelming his slight frame. Tom paused in his exit to tie the string on the borrowed pants tighter around his waist. He had no desire to trip and injure himself further.

When he came into the kitchen, Tom found Don Corleone and his wife seated across the table from one another. When the couple noticed the young boy, Vito subtly removed his hand from where it had been gently holding Carmela’s on the wooden table-top between them. The Don was notoriously straight-laced when it came to matters of intimacy.

With a smile, Mama Corleone waved Tom into a chair and made her way to the kitchen.

“How are you feeling this morning, Tom?” Don Corleone inquired as he ate his own breakfast.

“Good, sir.” Tom responded politely. “Thank you for giving me a place to stay last night.”

Don Corleone nodded his acknowledgement. Mama Corleone returned then and placed a plate with eggs, a thick slice of tomato, and a hunk of bread left over from the previous evening on the table in front of Tom. After Tom had thanked Mama Corleone, Don Corleone turned to his wife.

“He’s a very respectful young man. He will be a good influence for Santino.”

Carmela nodded, patting a hand on Tom’s shoulder affectionately before settling in her own seat next to the German-Irish youth.

The remainder of breakfast passed in relative silence, with occasional bits of conversation between Carmela and Vito. It seemed to Tom that Don Corleone was answering questions that Mama Corleone asked him, but since the couple stuck to their native language of Italian, he couldn’t be sure.

After the three of them had finished their breakfast, Carmela began collecting plates from the table when a soft knock came from the front door. Baby Michael began to cry then, seemingly awoken by the sound, and Mama Corleone disappeared into the nursery to soothe him. A moment later, Genco Abbandando had unlocked the door and stepped into the room. Don Corleone exchanged a quick look with his consigliere.

“Tom.” The Don wiped his mouth with his napkin before rising easily from the table.

The German-Irish youth found himself obeying the gentle command - standing from the table himself and following Don Corleone towards the door - before he had even truly registered the man's word.

Vito greeted his oldest friend with a familiar handshake, grabbing his dark brown suit jacket off of the coat rack by the door.

“Have the arrangements been made?”

Genco nodded. “Eight o’ clock. Dr. Caldwell.”

Vito’s lips curved into a small smile and the Sicilian patted his friend on the cheek in way of thanks.

As the Don left the apartment house, Tom found himself standing frozen where he had stopped a few feet back from the older men. Genco turned to him now with a friendly smile and waved for him to follow him out the door.

“Come on, son, we’re going to get that eye of yours looked at.”

With Genco as their driver, the Don himself took young Tom Hagen to the eye doctor. Arriving early, the trio had time to wait before Dr. Caldwell was finished with his previous patient. Don Corleone noted how the young Tom Hagen studied the pair of wounded veterans from the War sitting in wooden chairs across the waiting room, their faces disfigured from the injuries they had endured. Deciding to give the young boy his first lesson, the Don spoke quietly, drawing Tom’s eyes to himself.

“Those two are the lucky few. Millions died for foreign powers who have no interest but their own greed. All the while leaving their families home to fend for themselves.”

Noting the contempt in the Don’s voice, Hagen inquired, “But weren’t they serving their country?”

Don Corleone shook his head. “They were serving strangers.”

A few minutes later, Tom was called back into the Dr. Caldwell’s examination room. When the doctor came in and Tom instinctively backed up, Don Corleone placed a reassuring hand in the middle of the young boy’s back. The small gesture filled Tom with a feeling of security that was all too unfamiliar. After that, the appointment went smoothly, with the doctor flushing out Tom’s eye and applying a salve to help stave off the infection. Within a half-hour, Don Corleone and Tom Hagen were climbing back into the car and headed back to the Bronx.

His mother’s blindness before she died had terrified Tom. His own eye infection had felt like a stroke of doom, as if he were destined to meet the same fate as his mother. Then, when his father died, Tom’s eleven-year-old mind had snapped in a curious way. He had roamed the streets like an animal waiting for death. But now, with some treatment, Doctor Caldwell said he should regain full vision in his infected eye. For the first time in months, Tom had hope. And it wasn’t hard for him to pinpoint the moment it had first surfaced.

____________________________________

In the most natural of ways, without a word being spoken or the matter being discussed in any fashion, Don Corleone permitted Tom Hagen to stay in his household. When Genco Abbandando, Don Vito Corleone, and Tom Hagen returned home from the doctor, Tom’s metal folding cot had been replaced with a twin sized wooden bed, identical to Sonny and Fredo’s. The next day, a trunk filled with new clothes that would fit his tall, very slender build appeared at the foot of Tom’s bed while he was away with Sonny. The next week, Tom was enrolled into the same junior-high school as Sonny, and began attending classes regularly for the first time in over a year. Despite his gap in education, Tom applied himself and found the work engaging. He quickly rose to the top of his class. In all of this, the Don acted as a guardian rather than a father. There was no true show of affection but, in some ways, he treated Tom more courteously than his own sons. Without imposing his parental will, Don Corleone seemed to hold a special respect for the intelligent, semi-adopted youth.

Tom Hagen would occasionally hear talk about the Corleone family business through the cracked door of the Don’s office. Sometimes it seemed to him that the business practices being discussed couldn't possibly have to do with the Genco Pura Olive Oil Company - the best-selling Italian oil in America - that the family owned. And though he had heard plenty of talk around the neighborhood about how Don Vito Corleone was a “Man of Respect,” young Tom Hagen wasn’t exactly sure what all that entailed. If some of the rumors he had heard were to be believed, though, it was a dangerous business indeed. No whispers of ‘mafia’ would scare him, however. The Corleone family had done nothing but care for him as one of their own.

As the early risers of the family, it wasn’t uncommon for Tom to find himself seated at the kitchen table eating breakfast alone with the Don. The pair would sit in a comfortable silence - Don Corleone reading his newspaper while Tom studied his school work - waiting for the more talkative members of the family to join the table. While he was incredibly busy with his olive oil business, Vito Corleone always made sure to eat at least one meal of the day with his family. ‘A man who doesn’t spend time with his family, can never be a real man.’ Tom had overheard the Don say to one of his many friends before. It was one such morning, with the first hints of spring in the air, that Don Vito Corleone first mentioned anything about young Tom Hagen’s past.

“Never forget your parents, Tom.”

Tom had looked up, a bit startled by the break in silent tradition.

“Yes, sir.”

“Good.”

As Don Corleone returned to his newspaper, Tom turned back to his plate of food, stabbing a sausage link with his fork.
Hagen did not have many fond memories of his parents. His mother had been dim-witted and negligent, so riddled with anemia that she could feel no affection for her children. His father, meanwhile, Tom had hated. He was pretty sure that the Don would have too.

Glancing back across the table at the Don, Tom smiled softly to himself as he thought about his new life.

‘No’ he thought. ‘I will never forget my parents.’