A couple of days ago I learned that the mum of my ‘Italian family’ passed away this week. This left me numb with sadness as my virtual sister told me on the telephone from Italy. I knew something was wrong when I saw missed calls and telephoned ‘home‘ in response.
Elizabetta met my mother on a beach in Lake Garda in the early sixties while my mother was an au pair to a family on the lake. This little girl approached my mother – ten years her senior, and they played sandcastles together. They then stayed penpals and friends and grew older together from afar. And so did their familes. So only child me, had a virtual brother and sister a thousand miles away that I would see when a Farmer family architectural road trip invariably headed to northern Italy. I remember vividly my father’s stress at driving then parking in central Turin in 1984 that I replicated 30 years later as the Giro d’Italia finished in Turin and I called in afterwards and stayed with my family.
Whenever I worked in Italy I always notched a day or two on to visit and take them out to dinner somewhere. Even having phoned and checked they were in when plans went awry and crashing at their place at a moment’s notice. Family dinners at home and out in Turin, Verona or Garda made countless memories, each so special and cherished.
We stayed in touch throughout life. They made visits to each of our houses in the UK, my workplace in central London and even my hospital bed while I lay comatose for two months after my cycling accident two years ago – just getting on a bus from across the border to be near and bring love and support.
During my recovery we talked constantly and a parallel hospitalisation became a joint fight. It saddened me greatly to have that phone call the other night. To hear Elizabetta was talking about me as one of the family to the end was both tearful and beautiful. My Italian family lost their mummy this week, my mother her lifelong best friend that also grew up to marry an architect and live a parallel life in another country and I lost my Italian mummy – iMum as I called her right up to a few weeks ago when we last spoke.
Ciao mama Elizabetta – Please know I will stay family for life with my Italian brother and sister.
Ciao. Gussie. xxx