I’ve been fortunate to have many good examples in life. Other men that have loved, guided and taught me. Two of them are my Grandfathers, the other one is my father in law.
I bear my two grandfather’s names: Carlo and Eugenio. Italy and Spain. The longer story is that, as I wrote before, my parents decided to follow the (very) old Italian tradition of naming me after my paternal grandfather (Carlo). But my mom wasn’t very keen on it, so she named me after her own father (Eugenio). And she never called me Carlo…long story short, my Dad is the only guy that ever calls me Carlo, or the Spanish variation Carlos. But only when he is upset enough to not care about upsetting my Mom which was very rare. I’ve been Eugenio all my life. And of course it has made pronunciation to my fellow, english-speaking (north)american friends an act of lingual Cirque du Soleil.
I’ll start with Eugenio then. I never met him. In person that is. He died a few years before I was born. But I got to know him through his (many) writings. I’m writing this in part because of him I guess. I might have inherited that from him (together with an old, portable, Remington writing machine with cavities).
Eugenio had a very tough life. He was born in Buenos Aires, from Castilian parents. His mother was pregnant before leaving Spain on a ship for the great ocean crossing. She was pregnant (oh, the shame) before marrying. But she eventually married her boyfriend, and started a new life in Argentina. My grand dad thought of himself as “mostly Spanish, somewhat Argentinian”. The family whereabouts are foggy. Because we tend to forget what’s painful. What I do know is that a little brother died very very young (perhaps starved), and that he lost his own dad at 15. He essentially become the father of his 7(?) brothers and sisters. When I look at my own son (14), I cannot possibly imagine the enormous burden, and the overwhelming responsibility of helping his mom, and raising 7 (seven!) kids at that age. But he did it. Or, better said, did his best.
He wrote about it here, in this poem dedicated to his own Dad:
But life would not be easier for him. A self-taught man, he worked as a cinema operator and was always interested in politics and philosophy. He lost his job(s) many times because of his political ideas (socialist). I inherited many of his books. Most are very cheap editions of many classics: Proust, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Kant, Hegel. I read some of them (and can still recall the smell, and the coarse texture of their yellow pages).
Many of his other books are lost though. Hastily burnt to avoid political persecution. His views were not compatible with the government at that time, and my grandmother felt they had enough troubles.
My mom was his 2nd child. His first son, Jorge, died when he was 8. From all the blows he suffered in life, this was probably the worst. I believe he never fully recovered from it. In his style, he wrote about him a few times. This is one of such poems:
When he died, my Mom was already dating my Dad. He died knowing her daughter was loved very much. I hope he had some comfort after all.
I like to think I would have made him proud, if he had met me. He certainly taught me a lot, even without being present. Through his writings, and through the memories of my Mom and my Grandmother.
Carlo, my father’s dad, was born in one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to: a very tiny town in northwest Sicily, Italy. I was very fortunate to meet him. From him, I learnt the love and respect for nature. My fondest memories are from his apparently endless garden. That tiny patch of land he tended to (even at a very advanced age), would produce what appeared to me as infinite amounts of carrots, beets, celery, and any other edible plants. He also raised rabbits, geese, and chickens. He ate snails. And loved garlic. He barely went to to school, but taught my dad (and through him me), the value and ethics of work. Figlio mio, se non si lavora, non se mangia. A simple but powerful lesson that I have carried with me since then.
Here’s a picture of him, the only time I recall seeing him in a suit. Dressing like this is so alien, I can barely recognize him. He was boarding a plane for the only time he ever returned to Italy. He was going back to a place he couldn’t recognize as his anymore. He had left before the 2nd World War, and returned 40 years later. He did it only once.
The (very little, and broken) Italian I know, I practiced with him (actually more of Sicilian). Although, he lived many years in Argentina, he never spoke a word in Spanish. I guess it was the one thing that reminded him of who he was.
And then there is Roberto, my wife’s father, who “adopted” me. Roberto (a surgeon), taught me compassion, and the value of being of service to others. Like he has been to hundreds of people. Something I use everyday in my job. I have always admired his ability to build bridges with anyone, well-known or stranger.
His generosity and humility are hard to match. He’s the type of guy who will always pick up the phone, who will always listen, who will always be there to help you. He’s the guy you can count on, no matter what. Once, I called him, he took a plane, flew 20 hours and was on my house ‘s door the next day. Yes, that kind of guy. A real “gaucho”.