November 10, 2015
La Vita e’ cio’ che accade quando hai pianificato altri progetti!
I love to travel. I would fly away any time. But there was a time a few years ago when I made the decision I would travel with or without a partner or friend along with me. I headed out in April and basically did not return the Minnesota until July for a few weeks and returned to Italy for another month. It was a fabulous adventure.
And it nearly did not happen. One of my girlfriends passed away from a brain tumor right before I left for Europe. It was heartbreaking. She had 2 children, one still in secondary school. It was a difficult time.
A month before leaving, my godmother (la mia madrina),Auntie Carmel, took a turn for the worse. I knew in my heart that she would not last much longer. I hated to leave her.
Carmel had always been a strong influence in my life. She was the good, Italian daughter who lived at home with her parents and never married. Growing up, my cousins and I would sneak into her room, smell her perfume and play with her make-up. She wore red nail polish and had a JOB. Wow, she was the coolest.
Carmel was the other traveler in the family. She was the only one of our relatives I could talk to who understood my wanderlust. We could trade travel stories for hours.
And my father-in-law, the wonderful Allan, was slowly dying from COPD, that horrid disease my mother had suffered from before passing a year prior to this trip. I am divorced but have always adored my in-laws. And my daughter was suffering. I wanted to stay home.
My daughter and my family encouraged me to continue with my plans. This was my time, they said. I should take the trip. I felt selfish but wanted to follow my plans.
I was in Florence when Allan passed away. My daughter couldn’t reach me right away. I felt like a terrible mother for not being there for her. When we talked I said I would buy a ticket home right away. She said “NO, don’t come, mom. I am all right. And I am not alone.” She was so strong. I stayed in Florence.
That was a terrible day. I could not hold back tears in the classroom. I berated myself for being so far away. I could not concentrate on my Italian lessons at all.
That night I said my goodbyes to Allan. I remembered how instrumental he was in my marrying his son, how warm he had always been to me and to my daughter, his gloriously dry humor and brilliant mind. I remembered what my daughter said about him. “He can breathe freely now, Mom. I am happy for him.” And I said goodbye.
About 3 weeks later I was alone in Padua. I knew Carmel was doing poorly and she was suffering. So was my father as he watched what was happening to her. I prayed for her in the church of St. Anthony. I left a note where the petitioners left them. I asked St. Anthony to intercede for Carmel and take her home. Seven hours later she passed away.
It was a terrible feeling being alone without any friends and grieving for Carmel. I stayed in my room for hours. When I finally went downstairs I met a man speaking English to the person behind the desk. He had ordered 2 beds and expected 2 double or queen beds for his 4 people. The Desk manager could not understand him. So I translated for both of them. And I explained how in Italy 2 beds meant 2 single beds. He needed another room.
After that conversation the manager thanked me and asked what I planned to do today. I told her I was going to go to church and pray for my madrina who had died in the night. She cried. I cried. She invited me to dinner at her home after her shift was over. She was so kind. Again, I found gentle care in the hands of a stranger. It was remarkable.
After spending an hour or so in the church I returned to the hotel. She was there waiting for me. She insisted I come home with her. Her husband wanted to meet me. It eased the ache just to hear the offer.
Life, death, and life, that is what I experienced while traveling. I miss all three of them. I treasure their memories and am still saddened by the fact that I was not there for the funerals, as a support for my family and friends, and for the joint sharing of loss that aids in healing. Yet I learned something on my solo journey. Only I can process the loss. No one can take that pain away. But even strangers can become friends for a time. And they can share human kindness over a meal or a bottle of vino and laugh and cry with you. I feel very blessed. Sono una donna fortunata. La Vita e’ cio’ che accade quando hai pianificato altri progetti! I am a fortunate woman. Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.
Ciao for now!
Ciao for now!
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