Friday, January 05, 2007

Christmas Tales - Part II

During the Mass of the 24th night the Pope said, perhaps more as an allegory than literally, "Do not invite at dinner the ones who can return the invitation, but the ones who will never be able to, make presents to the one who can't give you presents in return, rather than the ones who can". Now, my father didn't just take it literally, but actually anticipated him, inviting home, after years no one had seen him, the 99 years old last survivor of my grandmother's family, my grandmother's older brother and therefore my 2nd removed uncle Alberto.

Now, it should be said that a number of happenings over the years, coupled with the troubling strain of maniacal selfishness and insane greed that plagued most of my grandmother's family (and eventually made it to my father's brother) had irremediably ruined the relations and, as I said, for years we had no contact whatsoever with him. Plus, sometimes along those years, his memory started to fail and, despite being absolutely conscious of himself and able to remember perfectly the times he was fighting as a volunteer in the nationalist army during the Spanish civil war, he basically doesn't remember at all my father or any of us and has problems remembering who of his acquaintances are alive and who, and at his age are an overwhelming majority, have passed away.

Yet he lives in a state of abandon and my father, being the man he is, took it upon himself to provide that minimal care and, for instance, have electricity restored to him, just to make an example.

Anyway, so it was that, much to my mother's dread and my brother's discomfort, this man came to lunch, the most important lunch of ths year in an italian family, and for hours entertained us with memories of his youth of dubious taste, sayings in strict neapolitan slang that no one, save perhaps my father, could understand and hard invectives against relatives gone since at least a quarter of century. As we finally took him home at the beginning of the evening, both my parents were showing signs of exhaustion and, more than usual, I was wondering about the effect of stress on the coronaries of my father.

And yet, after what was indeed a heavy day, the fact of having given my uncle probably the first decent meal in a long while and not having made him spent the day alone, in a way, made us, or at least me, feel Christmas more than ever.

Ah, the Pope's words...

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