But darling, be home soon…
Everyone tells you that the first anniversary is the hardest, and I’m struggling to understand it at all. Writing the speech for his memorial was a most surreal experience, much like it’s been to acknowledge that he’s been gone for a year. But in the spirit of keeping him alive in our hearts and minds, I thought I’d share what I wrote 1 year ago for those that never heard it, and for those that might like to join me in remembering Daniele.
I’d like to acknowledge now that no words, stories or thoughts I could try and say will ever properly represent my father, as he will always seem to me a man far beyond definition. And although he would also be likely to disagree with everything I’m about to say, I will try my best to describe the man I called Papa.
A world traveler, a lover, a student and a teacher, my father lived a fuller life in his short 67 years than most of us could ever dream of. Sometimes (usually after a couple glasses of the vino) he would start to tell me stories of his past that even I would start to question. There’s just no way someone could walk out of their first engineering exam, pack a bag and attempt a drive to India from Italy….lasting six month on $600…No way does someone commit himself to a mental health ward for days, convincing the Italian military he’s not fit to be enlisted. And do people actually meet each other on a naked beach in Greece, then end up traveling the world together, getting married, having babies, the end? But the stories kept on coming. And I ate them all up.
My dad was the type of academic that never stopped learning, reading, or studying. Even mere 20-minute lunch breaks at the Italian Consulate were an opportunity to brush up on philosophers he studied in his youth, do some controversial political blogging, or dabble in some creative writings. (And of course, let us not forget the necessary time spent reading every Inter article on the internet in hopes that maybe, just maybe we’d win Serie A this year…)
He had a musical appreciation and taste that will forever remain his legacy, and although he may not have had the actual musical talent he thought he did, we respected it anyway. He may have sung every song lyric incorrectly and fairly off-key, but as made evident in this 8 hour long playlist we have playing on a loop today, the music was in his heart and that’s all that mattered.
He was a husband to my mom that I can only dream of finding for myself. And although he may have denied it, he was a hopeless romantic through and through. Daniele always liked to claim that it was Nancy who chased him around the world, convinced him to settle down, forced him to have kids, etc. But as I’ve been learning through his countless love letters written to her throughout their courtship (which my Mom has kept to this day), he was equally the one chasing a great love, and knew how fortunate he was to have found it.
However, most importantly to me, Papa was the type of father that I know is extremely rare to come by. The type of father who read Homer’s The Odyssey to my sister and I at age 7, making sure each character had a different voice, bringing it to life in front of our eyes. The type of father who snuck Simona and I out of the house on Sunday mornings when mom slept in after late nights at work to order us as many silver stack pancakes from iHop that our heart desired. A father that coached our early soccer careers with such passion, that 20 years later I find myself standing in a room filled with his old players who we haven’t seen in years, but who’s lives he clearly has touched.
My dad and I shared in a similar life experience in these recent years, as I too decided to move across the planet and try my hand at starting a new life in a new country. He was never shy about his fears and concerns about me making this move, coming from a place of personal experience when he left Italy all those years ago. But through his apprehensions, he never stopped supporting me and never stopped believing that not only could I survive, but I would thrive — if it was indeed what I truly wanted. He may never have stopped ragging on British culture in the hopes that he would convince me to stay, but through the jokes he always made sure I knew how proud he was of me for taking on this challenge, and that he’d never stop missing me.
I find myself now with the shoe very much on the other foot, as I will never stop missing him. I have heard so many people in the past two weeks (some of which have never even met him) tell me that they knew my father was that special person in my life — and it couldn’t be more true. Whether it was two hour phone calls ranting about love lost, encouraging conversations about my career and his persistence in knowing “how long it will be until I start my own agency,” or our long winded arguments about why he wouldn’t just shut up and start supporting Arsenal with me, I cherished this recent development in our relationship, more than he probably ever knew. And if I could tell him anything right now, it would be how eternally grateful I am for that.
For those of you that knew my father well, you knew that he deeply admired artists, philosophers, musicians, writers, and more., however no connection seemed more powerful to me than his to John Lennon. Through his lyrics and his practice, John’s thoughts on death are poignant, and I believe were largely akin to my father’s as well…
“Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky.”
I’ve carried this same belief into my own life — that we are not confined to some cookie cutter construct of pearly gates or fiery pits — that we as humans may physically cease to exist with death, but where our soul is carried to next is a truly unconfirmed mystery. But in this moment of pure and utter grief, I find some small solace in the silly thought that somewhere, whether in this universe or the next, Daniele and John are together in spirit — sharing thoughts and philosophies on life, death, music, love, and even Yoko, having the conversations that I know my father always dreamed of having.
I may never forgive this world for taking my dad away from us all, WAY too soon than he deserved. A selfless man until his last day, Daniele lived his life fully for my mother, sister and I. But not begrudgingly — not to fulfill some role or expectation — but because it truly brought him a happiness through immense love that I can only hope to experience in my life. I may never understand why this has happened, but it will be in his honor that I live on with vibrance, strength, curiosity, and compassion. In his honor I will thrive in my career, seek greatness, and love my family with his heart and my own. And whenever I hear a Beatles song, I’ll smile and sing the correct lyrics for him. And when (or more likely if) Inter ever wins a game, I’ll cheer for us both — but making sure to quickly return to cynicism as he always taught me was good luck. And when I retell a story of his, or an inappropriate phrase or comment that we all knew he was capable of, you bet I will do so by using my horribly inaccurate Italian accent, because to me there is no other way.
Papa, John Lennon couldn’t have been more right when he sang the lyrics that he wasn’t the only dreamer. I know this because you existed in this world. I love you forever and I hope you’ve found your Tibetan mountain.
Love you always,
“But, darling be home soon. I couldn’t bear to wait an extra minute if you dawdled. My darling, be home soon. It’s not just these few hours, but I’ve been waiting since I toddled. For the great relief of having you to talk to.”