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Addio Marcello

May 25, 2018

I recall a day from 21 years ago as though it unfolded this morning. My wife and I made our first trip to Italy in 1997 and of particular interest was to visit the tiny village of Tret where my father was born. Little did we know that Tret would be our permanent home for nearly two decades.

We visited the alimentari, a small store that sells basic goods. This house was where my father was born in 1913. We peered cautiously into its small depths and had many questions for the new owner about the history of the house since it passed out of the hands of our family. As we were about to leave, the door swung open in a great swoosh and a little man asked the owner, “Dove sono, ‘sti Americanini? (Where are these little Americans?) The owner pointed timidly at us . “Li…”

This little man came straight out and introduced himself: Marcello Bertagnolli. Indeed, we had seen him hunting in the woods the day before but we hadn’t met. His eyes were bright and his voice enthusiastic. He told us that he had heard we were in town and wanted veru much to meet us. We spoke a bit though my Italian was poor in those early days. It was the beginning of a two decade friendship.

After we moved to Tret, we became good friends with Marcello. We visited his home many times. He was a hunter and his corridor ws littered with stuffed animals, elk horns and other mementoes from his past. I found that he was also a true musician and the only other person besides me in our small village who could read music. He would show me his compositions, written mainly for church masses. “Varda, varda – che bello ‘sto pezzo!” he would say as he grabbed by arm with a monkey like grip. His enthusiasm always shined through.

After several years in Tret, I was searching for a Christmas gift for Marcello, I stumbled across an old poem called “Paternoster.” It was written in the local dialect of Nones by and unrelated man of the same surname some 100 year hence. I had a special copy of the poem printed as to allow for musical notation and presented it to Marcello. I gave him a few ideas for music but in the end said I was sure he could make a beautiful piece from it. I could see the wheels turning immediately. “ ‘Spetta, spetta – Si’.” Was his response. The glitter in his eyes was strong and he said to me that it was one of the best Christmas gifts ever.

Marcello was a small man who came up to my small wife’s shoulders. When his car approached on our mountainous highway, it always appeared as though no one was driving. Even with several cushions, he could barely see over the dashboard. He always drove a four by four and would drive up and down the valley to fulfill commitments with his church choir and visit old friends. A couple of years ago at age 92, he went to Trento to renew his driver’s license. Here in Italy, they are rigorous about renewing licenses for very old people. He passed the test perfectly but the examiner was determined to trip him up. She shouted at Marcello, “Mr. Bertagnolli, do you know where you live?”  Marcello turned red with anger and shouted back (expletives deleted), “Of course I know where the hell I live!” He then repeated his address several times to drive the point home.

Several years ago, Marcello’s wife literally died in his arms early one morning. He recounted the whole thing to me on several occasions. I’ve never seen a man in his nineties cry so genuinely. On May 6, Marcello’s long life came to an abrupt end with a heart attack at age 94.

Addio amico mio. Sicuramente, ci vediamo fra poco. Nel frattemp, ricordiamo sempre con amore.

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From → Family, Italy, Travel

One Comment
  1. Condolences on the loss of your dear friend. He sounds sweet.

    Liked by 1 person

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