My father was 78 years old when I decided to emigrate abroad with my husband for the first time. My father wasn’t too old but not young either.
My husband and I had good jobs. I was a financial manager in one company, and he was a software developer in another. We had just renovated the big apartment that my parents donated to us after a life of hard work. And yet, we got married, quit our jobs, loaded the car with the things we cared most about, and left Italy for Dublin, Ireland.
We passed through Normandy, France. We saw the places where so many American soldiers lost their lives during the Second World War, and we sailed on a ship crossing a cold and stormy November Celtic Sea. We arrived in Dublin, 2191 kilometers far from our hometown, from our family, from the well-known places, colors, and smells of where we had grown up.
While my mother and sister expressed in very intense and painful words their disagreement and disappointment with our inexplicable resolution, my father did nothing but look at me with those beautiful, bright blue eyes of his, shake his head, and exclaim, “Your decisions.” Resigned, he did not let any emotion shine through, as always. Never a word of encouragement or a compliment. Always and only sharp jokes, seasoned with an imperceptible smile under his black mustache. He had a sarcastic, deadpan sense of humor, difficult to understand immediately. It didn’t make you laugh out loud, but it did make you think, or get mad, sometimes. But my father was mostly made of unspoken words and gazes that were difficult to interpret. It was my mother who always spoke for both of them.
My father was 88 years old, hardly walking anymore and suffering from a thousand other health problems, when we decided to move from Europe to New York, even further away from Italy. But he was very lucid. And still, he didn’t say anything to me. No encouragement, no blame. Was he in pain? Yes, for sure. Would he miss me? Certainly, yes! Why not say it? Why didn’t I tell him that I was sad, too? That I was so worried and afraid to leave him so fragile and sick? Why didn’t we hug each other more, and more often, and say we loved each other in every phone call? We are always so modest with the people we love most.
A month ago, my father died after a long hospital stay. It was 10 p.m. when my sister called me from an ocean away. From a six-hour time difference. From 6860 kilometers away. My father was dead. I hadn’t been able to be near him those last few days, those last few breaths. He had died alone.
He was 92 years old. He took away with him all the words I wanted to hear from him. All the ones I wanted to tell him.
Fly high, Dad. Laugh with the angels, out loud! As you didn’t do on earth. And stay close to me, forever!
Barbara Guardigli comes from Forlì, Italy, where people love good food and wine. She and her husband have lived in Ireland and Switzerland. Since 2017, they have lived in New York with their daughter and dog, Ms. Pipa. Barbara Guardigli’s six-word memoir about 2020 was published in LR19. She thanks Lead Instructor Manal Grant at the New York Public Library’s Pasculano Adult Learning Center “for her precious help and dedication.”