Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mandi Dolfo! Udine June 9th, 1921-Udine March 19th, 2011

Yes, admittedly, the house is not only very empty but also very, very quiet without Pops now that he’s left us (as I called him for more than four decades).

Thank God Dani was here and my cousin who is also a doctor when he left this crazy world on Saturday, March 19th at 9:05 pm at Udine’s hospital. Like Noah and his ark, it was indeed 40 very difficult days of going back and forth to see him twice per day in the hospital. I don’t know who was more zonked, me or him. He would have been 90 on June 9th (and just one day before Prince Philip’s 90th too).

Yes, he had some faults and wasn’t perfect (and who is?) but deep down he was a good father. A very generous man who rarely complained of having to open up his wallet for yours truly. Many years ago while living in Winnipeg he had told my mother that I was his best friend. Pretty touching words I must say. His days in Italy hadn’t been the rosiest, what with personal family tragedies (a few suicides, including his own mother, and a kid brother who died in a POW camp in Germany. His name? Mario…), but all-in-all I think he had afterwards in Canada with my mother and I and our two dogs a nice and decent life for some 34 years. Canada had been very, very good to my folks.

I’ll certainly miss discussing soccer with him (he had been a former goalkeeper in his youth in Italy and once in Canada made me play the “Beautiful Game” when I was about 9. How ironic that I’m now coaching 9 year-olds myself right here in Udine!), especially World Cup competitions, international politics and facts related to WWII (he fought in that bloody war), Ancient Rome and Latin, Dante (he used to quote from the “Divine Comedy” off of the top of his head, even shortly before dying) and also operas as he had been very knowledgeable on the subject as well as being an aficionado of that type of music. The absence of his great cultural background in my life will no doubt leave me rather “ignorant”.

His greatest gifts to me? Sports, in particular soccer, literature (to him and my mother my eternal thanks for having instilled in me the love of reading books. They both literally devoured books. As the Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa recently said: “The best thing in my life is when I began to read at age 5”!. I TOTALLY agree with that comment), a sound education which I got with two university degrees in Canada (he was about to become a chartered accountant at Venice’s university but Benito and Adolf ruined his plans. He was two years into his studies. He couldn’t get a degree so I think he felt that his own son should do his best to get one. I ended up not with one but with three degrees, and a lot of this I owe to my folks) and perhaps most importantly his constant “preaching” when he’d drive around with me sitting in the passenger’s seat when I was a kid. He’d point out the dos and donts of driving and thanks to him in 36+ years of driving in both Canada and Italy, well, I’ve never (thank God) had an accident (and NO easy thing to do while driving for more than 15 years in Rome with its 600,000+ motorcycles and scooters coming at you from every direction!).

My mother died back in 2006 on August 19th. My father instead died on Father’s day, March 19th! Guess mom was calling him to finally come and join her. Not one to ever complain (the doctors in Udine said that he was THE best patient they had because in 40 days he never complained) but knowing him for nearly 52 years I just think that heading after the hospital into an old folks’ home was just NOT his cup of tea. As he always done for most of his life, not giving me bad news as though to protect my from the “evils” of life, he never told me what his eventual plans were as he had refused to eat during the last week of his life. I think deep down he probably said: “I’m either going back home where I’m happy and where I’m happy with my son or I’m going to die because there’s NO way I’m going to go into one of those places” (n.b. he had worked for 30 years as a physiotherapist in Winnipeg. He saw polio victims, amputees, handicapped people, etc. for 8 hours a day. It wasn’t THE happiest environment in which to work. Nor are many old folks’ homes the greatest places in which to end your life)!

Finally, not because he was my father but quite honestly I can’t think of many people who didn’t like him. Guess I could pick up a pointer or two from him on how to be a wee bit more diplomatic with people...

As they say in the local language here in Friuli, “Mandi Dolfo” (as Adolfo was affectionately called by all of his friends)! I’ll miss you and I’m sure all your friends who loved you will miss you too…


PS After more than 20 years together not once did my dad look at me and say, “So, like when are you going to marry Dani”? He was also like that with my girlfriends in Canada: not once did he speak badly of them, nor did he tell me what I should or shouldn’t do with my girlfriends. For that I think he was also loved and respected by them.