Another day in Italy

It’s a typical autumn day in Rimini, endlessly similar to many I remember from my childhood. My father and I would sail out at sea, in the haze and light breeze. The sea was flat, all noises completely muffled by our distance with everything and everyone else. And soon we’d find ourselves sailing in a cloud of calmness.

Sailing in a cloud of calmness

The only intermitted sound reaching us in the distance was the fog horn from the tip of the southern pier of the harbor, like an immutable tooting guardian angel, happy to welcome us back home, anytime. These were the special times, times we shared and I treasured. Pure, without any interference.

I look out at the sea as we drive with the beach stretching to our right, as it begins its rest after another busy summer season. I tell my wife of those times and a smile sparkles in my eyes.

Moments later we’re walking toward the main entrance of the Rimini cemetery. They renovated and painted the outer structure, it looks very good since the last time I came here, over ten years ago. Just outside the gate there’s a huge and unique water fall. Angled at a few degrees slant from the road, it produces the sound of a small, calm brook.

Rimini Cemetery

Above the entrance is the latin inscription, “Resurgent”. I like it, I think for a split second, but I’m thinking of the soul, not the body as the Christian tradition instructs. I always thought that the idea that the bodies of the dead will rise again must have inspired the entire zombie culture and every zombie movie/story should pay residuals to the Christian, Jewish and Islamic establishments, as “story based on”. I’d change the inscription to, “Anima semper vivit” (the soul always lives), but that wouldn’t be the best tag line for one of the most consistently lucrative real estate investments of the City devoted to the keeping of the bodies.

My mind’s clearly busy as we enter. Federico Fellini’s and his wife’s, Giulietta Masina, tomb is right there, on the left past the main entrance, in plain sight.

Pomodoro sculpture as Federico Fellini, Giulietta Masina and son Pierfederico tomb

The Pomodoro sculpture of the bow of the ship that keeps going, a recall to his movie E La Nave Va and the artistic legacy that will survive him for ages to come. When Federico got the first stroke that was the beginning of his death a few months later, he was at the Grand Hotel of Rimini (my family’s business at the time).

Pomodoro sculpture, La Grande Prua (The Great Bow)

My grandfather called me very worriedly, “Federico’s sick.” “What do you mean, what happened?” I asked. “A stroke, we called an ambulance right away. They rushed him to the hospital. I don’t know if he’ll make it.” Giulietta survived his death but for a few months, then she left too.

I take a breath and I silence the chatter in my head. I take another breath as we keep walking and I try to remember where my father’s tomb is while my muscle’s memory guides us. I’m worried about what I might feel. Worse yet, I’m afraid to not feel anything. After my dad decided to end his life it took me ten years before I could shed a tear. Of all the stages of grief, numbness and anger took the longest, and confusion was a close second, so deep that it should be added in a category of its own.

We walk in silence, I hope I’ll be open enough to feel, whatever I have to feel, I keep thinking.

My feet drive us exactly to his spot and my heart jumps when I see his picture. We stop, Annie, my wife, to my side. We look, in silence. As soon as my gaze lands on his face, tears flood my eyes and stream down my cheeks, a smile shapes my face and a serene feeling of love fills my heart. Instantaneously.

I’m so happy to finally just feel love. I’m looking at that picture that for so many years only reminded me of painful things. But all I see now is my father.

I really wish that you’re happy, wherever you are, I think with a gentle feeling vibrating inside of me.

My father

“Ciao Marco, I’m Annie”, my wife says pulling me out of my inner world. “Yes, Dad, this is Annie, I love her very much.” I continue, “You’d have liked each other.” Then we both dive again in a meditative, soulful silence scanning the details of his picture, until I wipe my cheek with the back of my hand and I say, “He had such great hair.”

Annie almost chokes on her sputtering attempt to repress laughter, while glancing around to make sure we’re alone. She looks at me, I smile without looking at her, knowing that all three of us would’ve laughed. And maybe we are.

We decided to celebrate this day, which is the twenty-fifth anniversary of his death, with his favorite cigar, a Toscanello.

We let time go by freely -(Note: we don’t smoke and we don’t support smoking)

We sit on the bench in front of his spot and we light them up. We let time go by freely, puffing, remembering, sharing stories, smiling, “You’d have really liked him. He was brilliant – even without the drugs, actually more so without. He was super sensitive and very gentle, with a huge heart”, I say. “Yes, I like all those things”, Annie says.

Puffing, remembering, smiling

Before leaving I stand up and go close to him, I focus on his face in the picture, an unusual severe look for the man he was. After a few seconds, I can swear, I see his lips move into a smile.

“Thank you, Dad. For Everything. I love you”, I think out loud, and we walk away.

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