Thursday, September 08, 2011

A Brother, a Father, a Son

Our little group had an appointment at a winery which our host imports. We were on the outskirts of San Gimignano and the family has been established there since the 15th century. We were slated to have a tasting and then after a meeting, a little light lunch.

We had been on the road for almost a week, and the August holiday was winding down. I don’t ever remember being in Italy at the beginning of August and at the end. It was a passage for me; seeing folks heading north on the Via Aurelia on August 1 from Rome to the coastline of Tuscany. And then, traveling south on that very same highway at the end of August. It almost got me into the mindset of an Italian on holiday. Not that I was there on vacation. I just happened to be there, for work, both times. But I do have an imagination and a sense of placement when it comes to trying to get myself inside the head of an Italian.

But this last meeting was different because on August 1 this family we were visiting lost one of their members. When we sat down to lunch I looked at the family. The son, who was having a birthday on the day we were there, his 19th, was still raw from losing his father. His aunt, who runs the winemaking side of the winery, lost her brother. And the mother, who cooked us our meal, she lost her son. Theirs was an August none of them will ever pray to recapture. There was no holiday for them in August. Their August was a month of hell.

Still the figs ripened, the sun shined, the wine will be made. I looked over to them at one point in the day, sitting at the end of the table together like three little clothespins dangling on a line so precariously. I don’t know who I felt worse for. The sister lost her brother, which in Italy is like losing a father and a son. The son lost his dad, years after he lost his mom. The mother lost her son, the worst possible news a parent can get at any age. And yet they cooked for us, poured us wine, listened to our fractured Italian and our requests for more water, wine and bathrooms.

That’s part of the wine business. Life goes on. Grapes get harvested, and autumn follows summer.

I had this crazy idea in my head that folks in Italy must really hate to die because of what they have to give up when they leave their life in Italy. I know it is a romanticization of something that really isn’t quite like that. I was like when I first came to Italy 40 years ago and thought all Italians were good, honest, artistic, intelligent people merely because they lived in Italy. I came to find out that wasn’t true.

And so it is with leaving Italy. It isn’t any harder to leave the Italian life behind than any other. But it is just as heartbreaking to lose a brother, a father, or a son, in any place and at any time.


sharon Parsons said...

I am so glad I discovered your blog. Since I am going to EWBC-- most likely I will see you there.

Best regards, Sharon,; twitter/fb spaswinefood

Alfonso Cevola said...

Thanks Sharon
commitments back home won't allow me to make it to EWBC11 this year. sorry...great bunch of folks there, sorry to miss it.

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