By Linda Forte –
My father was a little Italian man. All of 5 foot 2. But he was strong as an ox. I remember when he was in the nursing home, in later stages of Alzheimer’s disease. He no could longer recognize any of us – except for his wife Irene.His eyes would light up when he saw her.
My dad couldn’t really speak at this point. Occasionally he would say “yeah”, or come out with angry “hey”, when you pushed down his baseball cap. But that was rare.
Although he knew some Italian, I never heard him speak it as I was growing up. But when he was in bed at the home if you ask him “Come stai?”, he would reply,” Bene. Come stai?” However, strangely enough, he could sing.
His repertoire was one line of O Sole Mio, or a few words of his favorite, Ave Maria. This song had significance for him in more ways than one. You see, my father had a little sister he loved that I never met. Her name was Maria.Maria was my mother’s best friend. When she was 18 she was diagnosed with leukemia and died a few months later. I don’t think my father ever recovered from that loss. I know that he turned his back on God that day. Although my mom’s family was religious, and my grandfather used to go to church every Sunday, my father – not so much.
He complained about several things with the church, and had a “bah, humbug” attitude when we talked about going. I would actually have to sneak out of the house on Sunday mornings and walk up to the church by myself.
One thing I remember clearly during this period when my father could not speak. He was in very bad pain one day. Though he was incapable of sitting or standing up on his own, we actually couldn’t even keep him in his bed. He flailed about an kept sliding out of his bed and my husband (also strong as an ox) would gently lift him up and put him back. Finally the nursing staff at the home took him to the emergency room. He was very distraught and uncomfortable but we didn’t know what was wrong. As it turns out he had a very bad urinary infection. It must have been giving him a lot of pain that he couldn’t express.
I remember trying to comfort him in the emergency room. And then I said “Let’s say a prayer, dad”. He put his hands together and he recited the whole “Our Father” prayer with me, as tears were streaming down my eyes. I couldn’t believe it. But it really was like a balm to my soul. My father recovered from his infection, and he lived several years after that incident. He passed in 2010. but I will always remember him singing Ave Maria and think about how he is now with his sweet sister, Maria.