Passing through a cloud of unknowing
Notes from a journal, not about my grandfather, but my great grandfather. In Palermo. He died before I ever knew about him. But one day many years ago, in the family home on Via Roma in old Palermo I was introduced to him in a vision. It was August and all of Sicily was an inferno. The road outside my window was filled with noise and smoky little Vespas filling the air with all manner of intrusions. I was feeling queasy and disoriented. An omelet I had eaten near Alcamo hadn't set well with me. That, and the sizzling heat. My aunt would bring me water with anisette in it, cloudy, cool, refreshing, soothing. But my stomach was a mini Etna.
I was flummoxed. I was in a strange place, not feeling well and there were sounds and smells that elicited discomfort. And here was this pushy little Sicilian man, was asking why I was in his room and in his bed?
He leaned over me took a look and opened his eyes wide. He was very white and wrinkled. "Va bene, you can stay, it is alright." And then he disappeared out through the window he came in.
Later that evening my aunt Vitina came in to see after me and my condition. I told her about the old man and described the disturbing occurrence. "Oh, I see Assuntino came back." she said. "He is pesky like that sometimes. Don’t worry, he is harmless. He cannot bother you. He just comes back from time to time to check on his home and see that nothing has been moved or sold.
I wondered how the old man dealt with that. Gone is the beautiful Louis the XV furniture. Gone is the breakfast table brought from the family village and the convent, what my aunt called the Schlitza (Sklee-tza) where legend has it Garibaldi camped, planning his ascent up the peninsula, all the while looting the wealth of the South. All he left was the breakfast table, which wasn't his in the first place. Nor was the money in the banks of Palermo and Naples his. Now the North of Italy complains constantly of having to divert funds to help in the reconstruction of the South.
Where is Assuntino? Whose furniture, whose fortune is he looking over now? Has it merely blown across the scirocco of two countries and 100 years and is but a footnote on a dream post in the corner of the internet, insignificant, with no power to right a wrong?
Blown right into the life of a man who has more of everything he could ever need in 10 lifetimes. Except for time. And peace. And respect. And love, without fear.
...to be continued