Wandering through the magnificent boot shaped country, I believed I had stepped foot in a nineteenth century film with the sights of old brick stone structures, painted walls, narrow roads, and stained-glass churches. As a child, surrounded by new sights and smells, I was beyond curious about the new world I was witnessing and had no knowledge of how significant it would become.
The journey through Italy made his adventure stories and difficult immigration experiences come to life. I recall the days I stood in the middle of the alleys with my arms outstretched to touch the walls of the houses on both sides of me with the tips of my fingers. I chuckle when I reminisce on each summer afternoon, when I consumed scoops of lemon gelato, witnessing the same customers passing to and fro and watching the dramatic Italian films with English subtitles in the town’s gelato parlor.
I remember the journeys upon the cobblestone roads in the bright red compact car that my family had rented, bouncing upon each stone, resembling how uneven and imperfect my life would soon become. The religious culture was so powerful; I adored the elevated chapel that overlooked his hometown, San Donato, upon an elaborately constructed stairway. I remember kneeling over a garden, I cherished the beauty and growth of each plant, but was most infatuated by an exquisite white flower. He witnessed my fascination, sat beside me with his familiar half-stretched smile, and whispered to me that the flower was an orchid, a plant that needed very little care.
I was mystified that the most beautiful flower habitually self-survived. As I experienced each sunrise and sunset in Italy, I began to fall in love with how the Italian language flowed off the lips and how every entrée had been cooked with love. The moment I most remember was when I visited the house he grew up in. Although the city was beautifully rural, isolated in its own beauty, his abode was unlike what I had witnessed prior. The house was small and vacant, and had no pulse, as if life had been torn from the front door while the floors had rotted and creaked. His stories of his difficult childhood were finally manifested through my understanding. Leaving Italy, was saddening for my young self, I was leaving the enchanted country with the stunning panoramas and enigmatic orchids. I came to realize his character had soon paralleled the emptiness and chilliness that his childhood home exuded.
Over the ongoing years, his heart crystalized slowly with coldness and distantness, as swiftly as his presence in my life dwindled into thin air. Time stopped becoming magical and seemingly moved faster and faster. I grew another inch and lived another year without him teaching me to dance or fix a light bulb, and love me. All I had left of him was a distant memory of the travels throughout Italy. It was as if the trip to Italy had been planned as a parting gift, a way of expressing his last goodbye. My life became consumed with swimming in my own tears, hating and blaming myself, and utter remorse. As my life began to build once more, I received the very thing that pierced my heart.
I was awakened to a delivery at my doorstep with a white mysterious flower, the very kind I had seen in Italy. I examined the flower and discovered a small note attached to the stem that read “Love, Dad.” And, all over again, I closed my eyes and envisioned the journey as if a familiar breeze had brushed my cheeks with the recognizable scent of orchids. I realized I was that mysterious flower and while he, my father, gave me little care, I had grown and flourished on my own.
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