When I was a young sprig, my parents were the harbingers our Italian community’s news. They knew who was ailing, in the hospital, had died, was visiting from of town or country, or was traveling, to name areas that incited Italian interest. My father, who owned his own shoe business, kept me abreast of these and other Italian news breaking events. My mother, whose community service and Catholic Church work brought her in touch almost daily with cutting edge events, also kept me informed. From my earliest years, whether or not I believed myself to have a vested interest in the day-to-day hot-off-the-press-informal-Italian-Gazette news flashes, I as made aware.
And then a funny thing happened: As I matured, the elders in my family began to die off, like great Roman gods. With my own mother’s death and my father’s increasing dementia, I became the point person for hot-off-the-wire family updates. There was a problem with this role suddenly thrust upon me: Not only was I working full-time, I was divorced and raising my daughter without any help, financial or otherwise, from my ex-husband, in addition to overseeing my father’s care. On most days I functioned on autopilot. The immediate needs of my child and my father were in the forefront, as they should have been. Well-intentioned family phoned me constantly in the evenings after I returned from work, and on the weekends. Finally, I had Caller ID installed to screen calls as a survival mechanism.
As the months and years rolled by, it became more challenging to know what was going on among Italian families, beyond my own, for my friends were also experiencing the deaths of their Italian shamans. My full-time working friends became increasingly engaged in elder care while attempting to juggle complex lives. We all coped, not always in exemplary fashion, but always honoring our parents, keeping them at the forefront of our efforts as we also attended to our children.
A dear cousin of my father’s died last Saturday. His funeral was held on Ash Wednesday, an odd day for a funeral among Roman Catholics. I did not even know of his death until late Wednesday afternoon. I grieved alone, for not one of my local relatives called to notify me prior to our cousin’s funeral. What I used to jokingly refer to as “The Italian Twilight Bark” has perished. Yet I prefer to contemplate our late cousin dining sumptuously above with my parents on a hearty repast of Italian food.
Ciao for now.
By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi