The Italian Geriatric League Weekend Part 2

March 18, 2016

Sunday, Part 2

Yesterday we visited the nursing home.  Today, we are attending two visitations at the local Funeral Home.  Yes, I do have an exciting life…

My Palumbo cousin Sonseere’s mother passed away in January.  Her father passed away last week.  It is time for us to gather and comfort our loved ones.

My father attended the funeral for Santa Palumbo in January.  She was my mom’s cousin and her daughter is more than a cousin to me. Sonseere is my friend.  Now her father Wally had moved on to be with his wife. I told my father about the timing and asked if he would choose whether to attend the visitation or the funeral.  He chose the Sunday visitation.

After driving 30 miles to his home, he told me we were going to a different visitation.  A Cucchiarella cousin had passed.  It was at the same place but Dad had forgotten about the first one.  So after answering his questions a couple times, we headed out to the Funeral home.  

We took dad’s keys away—but he still drives from the passenger side.  Gosh, I almost hit the car following his last minute LOUD directions.  I will always be his daughter. It doesn’t matter that I drive all the time—I don’t know what I am doing.  (Deep breaths in, deep breath out.)

When we got there, we could not find a parking place.  The joint was hopping with Italians visiting each other. You would think it was a party and not two wakes.  We finally parked on the street.

We walked inside and my father couldn’t recall which we were there to see.  I just told him again about Wally and that we should stop there first. We signed in and my dad and I donated with the available envelopes. My father then looked around and said “Where is everybody?”  The room could hold way more people than were present. Dad didn’t know any of them except Sonseere.

She told us that the Cucchiarellas who were mourning in the room across the hall had actually lived right next door to her.  They had come over when they first arrived and gave their condolences.  She had gone over to talk with them too.  This did not sink in with dad. He was upset that his family was not over on this side.  There needed to be more people in this room.  It really bothered him. We had another round robin conversation about the situation. And we sat and waited for others to come.

After about 45 minutes, we walked across the hall to the crowded Cucchiarella room.  There my father saw so many people he knew.  They all welcomed him like a lost sheep.  Soon the conversation was all about them, time passing too quickly, who lost whom most recently and my mother’s laugh.

My dad would forget that they had already visited the other room. He would ask them when they would go over there.  They would repeatedly tell him that they had already been there.  Most of them didn’t even remember that he had asked already.  And the ones who did respected him enough to let it all go.

He decided he had to attend both funerals Monday morning—both of them. I almost lost my cool here.  I would have come on Monday but he wanted to be there Sunday.  And one was at 10am at St. Mary’s while the other one was at the funeral home at 11am.  It was impossible. I did not want to drive over again. Yet I could not tell him that outright.  Each time he talked about it I avoided answering.  I was hoping the forgetfulness could work in my favor.

Next we talked about our home town of Fragneto L’Abate near Benevento in Campania.  This was dad’s side.  The Palumbos were Mom’s side. So many Cucchiarella family members had been to their home of origin as I have.  It was great for me to share stories with them. No one in my immediate family had been to Fragneto L’Abate until I took them last May.  It is a joy to hear their experiences.

Italian families always gather at these visitations.  They bring food, especially dolce, dessert. As a child I thought it was morbid that they would just sit there chatting for hours while the families of the deceased were greeted by each new person. I think I understand a bit more now that I am older.

Our Italian family and paisani, Italian friends, commune and remind each other that they are still here.  The older generation is not yet all gone.  They still can talk about their stories. They still have each other in the tiny subculture of Italians in St. Paul, Minnesota.  They are not alone.

Most of old ones are passing away.  Their stories are over. We children and grandchildren must pick up the torch and keep the race going. We are now the storytellers.  We are the curious ones brave enough to return to Italy and find out just what our elders sacrificed to give us the life we have.

In my work with the clients of TAKE ME HOME ITALY I bring my stories along with me. And I carry the Italian Soul I have discovered through my visits to my town of origin, my cousins in Italy, and my travels throughout the country.  As we plan your travels I help you find locations and activities where you can experience the non-touristy, Authentic Italy along with the headliners.  I help you find your own stories and capture a piece of the Italian Soul for yourself.

One last comment: When it was time to leave my father said several times, “They lived together in life and now they are together in death. Isn’t that something?”  

It is true. When you share life together, be it good times or bad times, a piece of that life will always be with each of the participants. You can have that piece too, even if you are not Italian. Walking with Italians in Italy, you will be gifted with pieces of life you can’t imagine now. You might even find your own Italian soul.

Now pass the vino and some biscotti.  Here’s to Wally and Mr. Cucchiarella! Cin Cin!

Ciao for now!

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