Four birthdays and a farewell take me back in time

(Canscene) — In the space of nine days last month, my wife and I helped celebrated four birthdays and a commemoration of the lives of a couple of very good friends; she died a few years ago, he recently.

Since not one of these good folk was under 70 and some had passed into their eighties, it came as a bit of a shock to me to realize that in age, I outranked them all.

Pondering on this business of age I reflected on the fact that a 162-year span covers the distance between my paternal grandfather’s birth and the present: a staggering period of time it seems, but Don Silvestro Viccari was in his fifties when my father, the youngest of three, was born.

A feisty nonno
While my one personal recollection of my Italian grandparents is from a visit to Italy at the age of four, a few years before they died, I have learned enough from my father’s journals to appreciate nonno’s feisty independence and individualism. A self-appointed lawyer, he would travel by horse and carriage through the hill and coastal towns surrounding the Gulf of Gaeta, his “professon” unchallenged by magistrates and judges before whom he brought his cases.

In 1860, he was old enough to have fervently supported the cause of Garibaldi, Italy’s liberator, but too young to fight. He lived to witness the rise of Mussolini, whom he never ceased to vilify; it was, perhaps, due to his age that he was never given the infamous castor old treatment.

When in 1944 to ‘46, I was in Italy with the British forces, I frequently visited old friends in Formia not far from nonno’s village. It gave me great pride to be introduced as the grandson of l’avvocato Viccari whose memory survived, nearly 20 years after his death.


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