Monday, May 31, 2010

When in Rome... or Livorno.

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. 

Quite casually, he looked at our tickets and said something to the effect of, "Your tickets are for Florence, but you are going to Livorno." 

My father asked him (in Italian) to repeat what he had said.  He did and then walked away to the next passengers without another word.  No further translation was needed.  I started to panic.  We should have been going back to Florence.  Our hotel was there. That was the plan. Florence = right direction.  Livorno = wrong direction.  I had no idea how far it was but we were clearly stuck on a train going the wrong way. 

My dad simply took off his jacket, gave an easy shrug and said unconcerned,
"Well, I guess we're going to Livorno.  Ya know what?  I've never been to Livorno before."  

He had this really cute way of raising his eyebrows and making his eyes wide which I can't avoid imitating as I recall him saying the words.  Probably my favorite of his many facial expressions, even at the very end when verbal communication took too much energy.

Anyway, we had barely settled in for the "adventure" when the train came to a full stop at a nearby station. 

"LIVORNO!" the conductor announced.

"Well, that didn't take very long," my dad remarked in his easy way as he gathered his things.  "Let's go little kid."
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Sarah said...

what fun memories you have of your dad. i'll bet the twinkles are still in his eyes now when he looks at his little kid.

The Guy's Perspective said...

Your dad is an example for all dads. Enjoy the adventures. I love the Livorno story!

webb said...

It's great memories like that that help us thru the difficult days. I hope you have a big tub of them. Hugs.

Charlene said...

Thanks so much for the comments. Lots of happy memories indeed. Still selfishly want more, but slowly coming to a place of acceptance. Very slowly... but ya know.

Mary Catherine said...

This is a beautiful post. Hold on to those memories :)

I am your newest follower, over from SITS. I am glad I stopped to read this post.

TC said...

So sorry about your dad. LOVED the post. Sounds like your father had a wonderful philosophy about life.
Mine did an eyebrow thing .....

Carey and Jon said...

Loved this post. Sounds to me like your dad was one special guy. So sorry to hear of your loss.

Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest! :)

M @ Betty Crapper said...

Happy Birthday!!!!! Hope you have a fantastic day.

I love that your family had a celebration of life. Thank you for sharing that fantastic story of your travels.

Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest and thanks for visiting my blog earlier.

Tania-Dreams2010 said...

So sorry for your loss. I lost my dad 7 years ago :( Hold on to the great memories.

Newest follower from SITS.

data recovery Miami said...

Sounds like your Dad was very special. Think about how lucky you are to have known him for so long.

Bruce Coltin said...

Let me know when you reach nor next Livorno. I'd like to be there to call your name.

Kristi {at} Live and Love...Out Loud said...

What a great story about your adventure in Italy with your father. It brought a smile to my face. :)
Thanks for stopping by my place. I'm following you via Google Friend Connect! Have a great weekend.

Kristi, Live and Love...Out Loud

Tamara aka Cheapskate Mom said...

I am visiting from the SITS forum and just wanted to say that I am so sorry about the loss of your Dad. I know all too well the pain your are enduring. I too lost my Daddy over 3 years ago. The pain doesn't get easier but it becomes more bearable with time. Your shared memories of him here are so touching. Keep them close to your heart always.


Annah said...

Ahhhh, love me some Italy. My first trip there was with my father as well. I distinctly recall how CRAZY the Italians drive and how happy my father was not to need an excuse to drive like a nut job. It was awesome.

Charlene said...

Gosh - I didn't realize I was so behind on replying to these!

Mary Catherine: Thanks for following. I love my SITStahs!!

TC: It's funny how we remember those little things. You'll have to tell me about your dad's eyebrow thing sometime.

Carey: Thanks for stopping by and the nice words. Special indeed.

Betty Crapper: Love your blog and will be back there soon!

Tania: Thanks for following! Sorry I haven't been as attentive lately but I'm back now!

Miami: Yes, I really do feel lucky. Still, I guess it's just never really enough time no matter what...

Bruce: You can call my name right there in H2O Town! :-)

Kristi: Thanks for following and I enjoy your blog as well!

Tamara: I'm glad you said it doesn't get easier... I've been feeling that way but so many people say it does. Thanks so much and HUGS to you too.

Annah: You have me laughing - thanks for the smiles!!

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