By Rosanna Rosica
He was 56 when he died but he was young in spirit and mind. But if it is true that a person only dies when he dies within us, I must say that my father is alive. He is alive not only in my heart, and in those of his dear ones, but also in the hearts of so many people who knew him during his lifetime.
Gifted with a strong sense of history, he used his instruments to analyse and understand the processes of his time. He was interested in many people, but those "defeated" by life, the weak, dropouts, the different, all interested him more than the "winners" of "stupid cheerfulness". He sought to probe people’s souls because "only through knowing the conscience of a single man is it possible to know humanity and thus, the processes of history". Speaking of his father, a hard man without any psychological sensitivity, he said that "one day, maybe, I stopped loving him, but I never stopped understanding him". He looked like his mother who died when he was 11 years old and from whom he treasured the last letter that she wrote to him when he was at boarding school. The mystery of life fascinated him and often he would recount to us the emotions he felt with the birth of each child. He seemed wrapped up in the smell of talcum powder when he played with us, who for him were not simply his children, but expressions of the miracle of life, of life itself, of all things, of threads of grass growing between the stones and of violets under the hedgerows. He would pick them and put them under his nostrils and deeply breathe in their perfume. He loved Pascoli and Gozzano from whom he gathered "greatness and specificity". "I have seen death but he did not have your eyes" he told my mother after his first heart attack during the course of his illness. He loved his wife "with silken skin" and this love made him a happy man involved in politics and in ethics. He used to say that the fall of Fascism was the greatest joy in his life….. second only to the joy at his daughter Adriana’s recovery from Typhus at the age of twelve. "I love other people’s children because I love my own children" was a phrase I heard him utter on several occasions. And this [love] is returned to him in affection and memory. One day a letter arrived for the mayor of Guardiagrele from an ex-pupil in Bressanone. The ex-pupil, now an adult, wanted news about his philosophy teacher, his beautiful wife and his children. He recalled walks along the River Ombrone, whilst the clouds of war were descending on our country. In a pharmacy in Gessopalena, several summers ago, I handed in a prescription for a certain medicine. On the top at one side was written my name. The pharmacist asked if I was Professor Rosica’s daughter. She had been taught by him in 1947. Maybe, as happens with most adolescents, she had been a little in love with him, "When he spoke about Kant," she told me, "not a fly flew." "He had a charming method of communicating." He often used to tell about a man whom he had heard calling him at the Terminus Station in Rome, later he found out that the man was a doctor. Father had been the examiner at the Secondary School [liceo ginnasio] in Lanciano. The boy was clever, the brightest in the school, but he "was rather presumptuous." In both history and philosophy he always got 9 out of 9. He didn’t mind which discipline they began with first. He was unable, however, to reply to the first questions which were very tricky. Then the interrogation continued in the traditional fashion and his 9 out of 9 was confirmed. But my father lectured him, "We should never assume things because that which we do know is always insufficient for understanding life and ourselves." The doctor at the station in Rome had never forgotten that teacher or his words. Father loved Torricella which he had chosen for his holidays and he was well grounded in the reality of the place. His humanity did not escape the notice of the inhabitants, who have now asked me to write about him. And I can see him again strolling along, tall with a slight stoop, with his faithful dog Li-lě, down the Corso or going to find Uncle Affilio to whom he was bound by deep brotherly love. Mrs. Pietrantonio told me a story about him that concerned her. One day she went up to her husband, who was playing cards with Papa and some others, to tell him something. He carried on, rather annoyed and she went away feeling humiliated. The next morning when she was at the market she felt a tap on her shoulder.
It was my father who explained to her that he was really sorry about what had happened, but he continued to sing her husband’s praises, "An exceedingly good man who occasionally behaved badly". For him there was no such thing as a "purely bad man" but only "good ones who behaved badly". Often he loved to joke. One night, in front of the café, he turned to the lawyer, Ettore Troilo, to whom he was linked by similar political ideas and personal esteem, and said, "Ettore Troilo is not a gentleman ……." a momentary pause ….. "but a very great gentleman!" And just yesterday, Nella Rotondo reminded me of another episode. It was the night before her wedding and my father said "Nella, you are about to become the sister-in-law of the most beautiful girl in Chieti"….. another pause …. "but you are no less beautiful". One summer night as we were returning home, he looked at the stars and the myriad lights and asked me, "Rosanna, do you think that all this might happen by chance?" ….. I don’t know if he asked himself the same question at the moment of "passing" and I don’t know what reply he was able to give to himself.
1Pascoli - 1855-1912 - Italian Philosopher and Poet. 2Gozzano – 1883 – 1916 - Italian Writer and Poet.
© Amici di Torricella
Translation courtesy of Dr. Marion Apley Porreca
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