My nonno (my father's father) passed away, this afternoon. He was 89, and had suffered from Parkinson's since before I was born. Over the last six months, his health deteriorated dramatically and suddenly, until Dad and I made an emergency trip out there in February.
He nearly died while we were there, due to a negligent GP, but he hung on until today - despite breaking both hips in a fall a few weeks ago.
One of my clearest memories of him - aside from being the one person who sat with him and held his hand while the doctors tried to unblock a catheter at a critical moment, and the rest of the family flailed around and argued about whose fault it was - was of my brothers and I, then 11, 8 and 6 years old respectively, sitting on the porch at the family's country house and singing rude rhymes in English, while he clapped and cheered, oblivious to the obscenities his grandchildren were chanting.
He was a serious man, with a dry sense of humour. In February, when my cousin's fiance, Gaetano, asked how he was feeling, he glanced at him for a moment and said, "Yeah, I'm going dancing, now," before shuffling into the kitchen in his pyjamas.
Despite being in his late 80s, and working hard for most of his life to support his wife and sons - even moving to Germany for a few years when my father was a child, so that they could afford to rebuild the decrepit family home in Collesano - until Christmas, he was still wandering around the steeply hilled mountain village where he had been born and raised, lugging home food and doing all the things Sicilian men are expected to; a real trooper.
I wish over the years I'd had more time to spend with him, and I think he felt the same, but I'm glad he's passed, because I know he's been in a lot of discomfort and while he was sharp as a knife, mentally, he has had to watch my Nonna - his wife of nearly sixty years - descend into dementia, and I'm glad he's gone before she became unrecognisable.
So, for those of you who drink, raise a glass of Italian red like the wine he used to make from his vinyard, and for those of you who don't, some Nutella on crusty bread is one of the most Italian things in the world. Indulge in his honour.
Buona notte, amore mio. xoxo