Saturday, February 28, 2009

Zio Ugo

[The English version of this post is immediately below this one.]

A volte sembra che non smetta mai di piovere. Avevo appena finito di scrivere un tributo per la mia amata Zia Fortuna, quando essa fu seguita da suo marito, mio Zio Ugo. Anche lo zio, come lei, stava molto male da un paio d’anni, e ambedue soffrivano molto in questi ultimi mesi. Per grazia di Dio, se ne sono andati a distanza di pochi giorni l’un dall’altro.

Come descrivere Giuseppe Scarfì, conosciuto a me e a tutti come Zio Ugo?... Era lo zio divertente, sempre pronto con una barzelletta, (a volte non del tutto pulita, con gran disappunto della zia...). Amava molto la sua famiglia e tutti i suoi parenti. Si rivolgeva a tutti con espressioni affettuose come "tesoro" o "gioia", e lo diceva di cuore.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Zio Ugo

When it rains it pours. I no sooner finished writing a tribute for my beloved Zia Fortuna, than her husband, Zio Ugo, followed shortly after her. Like hers, his health had been deteriorating for years, and both of them had been suffering greatly over the past month or so. By God’s mercy, they went within a few days of each other.

How do I describe Giuseppe Scarfì, known to me as Zio Ugo? He was the fun uncle, always good for a joke (sometimes a bit off color, much to Zia Fortuna’s chagrin). He dearly loved his family, both immediate and extended. He addressed young and old alike with terms of endearment such as tesoro [treasure] and gioia [joy], and they were heartfelt expressions.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Zia Fortuna

[The English version of this post immediately follows this one.]

Fortunata Vadalà Scarfì, la sorella di mio papà, era per me “Zia Fortuna”, nome in un certo senso sbagliato, dato che fu abbastanza sfortunata, particolarmente durante la seconda metà della sua vita. Però, pensandoci bene, nessuno lo avrebbe mai saputo osservando la sua gioia e serenità imperturbabili, e il suo sorriso contagioso, anche in mezzo alle avversità.

L’ho conosciuta per la prima volta quando avevo tre anni, duranta una lunga vacanza in Italia. Ricordo ben poco di quell’estate del ’61, però apparentemente ero rimasto invaghito da Zia Fortuna. Da allora, molte volte mi rammentò una conversazione che avemmo quando stavo per tornare in America.

“Ora te ne vai in America, e mi lasci sola.”

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Fortunata Vadalà Scarfì: Requiescat in Pace

 Born Fortunata Vadalà, my father’s sister was known to me as “Zia Fortuna”, which literally means “Aunt Luck”. Her name was a bit of a misnomer, as she had her share of misfortunes, particularly during the latter part of her life. But then again, you wouldn’t know it by her unflappable joy and serenity and her contagious smile, even in the midst of adversity.

I first met her when I was three years old, during a long vacation in Italy. I remember very little about that summer of 1961, but I was apparently taken with Zia Fortuna. Numerous times since then she lovingly reminded and teased me about a conversation we had just before it was time for my parents and me to return to the states:

Ora te ne vai in America, e mi lasci sola.” [Now you are going back to America and you will leave me all alone.]

No, zia, Fortuna!” I protested with sincerity and innocence. “Io non ti lascerö mai sola!” [I will never leave you alone.]

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Today, February 10th, is my 51st birthday. No big deal.

Though I certainly enjoy the well wishes I have received, and the extra nice birthday meal, it’s funny how the excitement of birthdays diminishes with age. When I was a kid I looked forward so much to February and my special day. I also shared a birthday with my beloved grandmother, Nonna Antonia, and I never minded dividing the attention with her. I thought it was kind of neat to have the same birthday as my nonna. Here is a picture of a typical celebration, when I turned three and she turned fifty-eight. There I am standing on a chair between nonna and my beautiful mother, with everyone else either looking into the camera or drooling over my mother’s strawberry shortcake, which was something to die for!

In addition to enjoying my birthday as a child, I also looked forward to February for the hope of a good blizzard or two that might get me out of school. Now it seems that if it snows at all, it’s only enough to get my kids out of school but not enough to shut down the federal government (my beloved employer), so what good is that? For that and other reasons (also related to age) I have come to have little use for February’s cold, short and dark days. And with birthdays not as exciting as they used to be, the month has little or no redeeming social value. (Okay, the romantic side of me still enjoys Valentine’s Day.) I have heard (though I am not sure it is true) that the ancient Romans left January and February off of their calendar because they would just as soon not acknowledge these otherwise dreary and entirely forgettable months.

Don’t get me wrong. Life is good and every day is a blessing. But I’m more than ready for spring.