I have given away our extra pantry items, our blender.
We are down to the our tiniest bone of soap.
We had a text in the middle of the night. Someone we loved very much — gone. Reservations made. Ticketed.
I am in the school office. Today is my last day, I tell them.
But I have brought little cookies, biscottini, to my classmates and my teacher.
I explain to them that I have had a death in my family. Oggi e’ il mio ultimo giorno, I say. Today is my last day.
Tears are streaming down my face.
I am back from class, packing now. Packing almost everything.
This is not the end, I think. Ma, quasi. But almost.
He comes in, sad and tired. He sees the suitcases.
I had my last lunch with my colleagues today, I think, he says.
He walks over to the counter to finish the whiskey. To take off the edge.
Oh good, I can recycle this bottle now as well, he says.
We decide to have dinner on the Naviglio Grande. The evening is cloudy, chilly.
Both of us, emotional. But you know, grief occupies the same space as joy. It is our joy we are feeling in both of these losses. It is our love, of her, of country.
And just like that we are on the plane. We are in the place where we were children — but with a house in Wisconsin and now — still — a little apartment in Milano.
But we get to be with ours.
Two hours before the funeral they are all playing bridge in our hotel room, on the bed. To enjoy each other, to be together again.
To honor the generation which has now gone, who all loved that game. Like their father before them, who played, every day on the train. For decades.
When life interrupts life. When death interrupts life. Well, they are the same now, aren’t they?
After our children leave, after some family leaves we drive. We have a dinner with more family.
So good to be together. Everyone talks about her, everyone talks about Italia. Everyone talks about other loved ones lost.
Another long flight back.
More laundry hanging to dry in the apartment, more packing.
While we were away our portiere got new glasses, a haircut.
Now 8.20, we are waiting for the taxi while inhaling the heady scent of fresh jasmine mixed with cigarettes…Milano in early June.
The street is crowded with parents dropping their children at school. Cars are in every which direction.
It is rush hour.
We have another flight to catch.
When we drive by the police station we see its entrance blanketed in roses — of all colors.
I feel that I want to memorize every train, every corner, every bare and full rosebush. Every jasmine vine, every smoking kitchen worker in my building.
I want to memorize the Roman gate — the Porta Romana — at early morning rush hour.
I want to remember all the times we have rushed, when we were laid bare and when we were covered with roses.
When we get to the airport our taxi driver says to us “Have-a A Great-a Day-a”. He smiles a wide smile and for a second, I think he is going to embrace me.
Siiiiiiiii…buona giornata — I wish him a good day.
Now we are passing through the duty free shop. I never stop there, usually. I never really understand the point.
But today, I need to bring some gifts to our next place…I choose Baci — chocolates with love messages.
But I am really drawn to the olives, the dried porcini mushrooms, the perfumes named for Italian cities. I touch a yellow scarf. Of course you love it, he tells me. It is yellow. I sample a cologne named for the region of Liguria.
It is not my taste, purtroppo.
My heart is whispering — “not yet. It is not yet time to leave for real….but soon”.
I buy the chocolates, an Italian Vanity Fair.
We board the plane, exhausted.
I am so sorry about your loss. I have enjoyed following you through Italia and will not soon forget.
Beautiful glimpses into love and loss, living and death.