The night before my father's funeral, we had a meaningful gathering of family and friends. Knowing Daddy didn't much care for the traditional wake or memorial service we opted for a "celebration of life." Still sad, but also really wonderful. It was especially nice to hear the stories of my dad from people who knew him as a little boy and a young man; times before I was even a twinkle in his eye.
That night I shared a modified version of a post I wrote last year about ten things I learned from my dad, plus a few other special moments and personal thoughts.
One of my sister's childhood friends described a few of her feelings and memories in a letter which was read aloud. It included a time she ran into my dad and me whilst traveling in Rome, Italy. Such a happy coincidence and welcome connection when she was missing home so much.
I remember it like it was 1994. (It was.) I heard someone calling, "Charlene! Charlene!" Of course I didn't turn. Nobody would be calling for me in the middle of Rome. I was recently divorced at the time and didn't even have many friends in the U.S., let alone Italy.
The voice got closer, "Charlene! Charlene!" Against the odds, there was my sister's dear friend whom we hadn't seen in years. Small world indeed!
That story made me think of another one from that same trip. My dad and I were on holiday in Italy, just the two of us. We mainly stayed in Florence but ventured to other places via train, as we had done to Rome the day we ran into our dear family friend.
These excursions were always fun for a couple of reasons we didn't expect. One was that the "information" clerks at the train station seemed hell bent on only confirming or denying info already had from other sources, not providing it when it was actually needed.
I'm sure the language barrier exacerbated this perception. My dad actually spoke "very good" Italian. However, he was also slightly hard of hearing. (This was before the good hearing aids.)
Thanks to four years of Latin and a knack for languages, I can understand enough Italian words to be dangerous, but can't hold a conversation thanks to my poor accent and total lack of grammatical understanding.
Therefore, my dad would ask a question in Italian and receive a reply in Italian. Knowing he didn't hear it completely, I would say (more loudly) to my dad what I thought the clerk had said, and then my dad would reply back in Italian or ask another question. And so it went.
Luckily my dad was never one to get his feathers ruffled. He almost seemed to enjoy the game of "which track has our train" when we couldn't get a straight answer out of anyone. Or perhaps more fairly, they couldn't get us to understand.
On one occasion, my dad and I had spent the day in Pisa and boarded our train back to Florence. After a few minutes, someone came around to collect our tickets.
"Well, that didn't take very long," my dad remarked in his easy way as he gathered his things. "Let's go little kid."