Here’s one from the distant past, but the Don is yet remembered:
11 di agosto 2021
Salutos Don Bolini,
Con questa nota comes sad news to your doorstep. Don Rosario, your dear father e capo della nostra famiglia, yesterday morning went away with the angels. They sang several verses of Ave Maria before they pushed him from his deathbed and taught him how to fly. You will be content to know that Rosario’s last words were meant for you. La lettera, he groaned. Send la lettera to my son Bolini. I want the boy to know I was a sensitive man who endured life’s many difficulties and remained unafraid of his parte femminile.
Don Rosario, your dear father e capo della nostra famiglia, spent much breath and spirit on delivering this final message. I think he died a little sooner as a result of all this effort, and this remains a matter of pride for those of us who knew him well. As he spoke these words of love for you he pointed a crooked finger toward his table beside the bed, and then he was gone with the flutter of wings.
I sobbed for a few quiet moments, out of respect for the man who made my career in law enforcement when everyone else had given up on me as just another dyslexic Sicilian with a good wardrobe and the right accent. Then I wiped away the tears and went for the lettera. The words were still wet where Don Rosario, your dear father e capo della nostra famiglia, god rest his soul, had just seconds before scratched out the closing paragrafo and signed it all in blood.
May the good lord forgive me my sins, Don Bolini, and may you pardon me as well for my indiscretion, but I could not resist the temptation to read the lettera before I slipped it into its envelope, sealed it with your good father’s wax and gave it to Schiavo with instructions to ride day and night till he reached your gate.
The lettera is an unhappy memory, Don Bolini, but before I read the opening line I knew what my old friend would tell you. I knew because I was there with him inside that green church basement on Tuesday nights. If you ask me, your dear father e capo della nostra famiglia endured too much for his desire to open his heart to protestants. Had he listened to my advice and instead joined the group therapy sessions at Santa Rosa’s on Wednesday nights he might sooner have settled matters between himself and Luigi.
But I move ahead too quickly. You must read the lettera for yourself. I trust that you will understand your dear father’s parte femminile much better once you’ve read his story, and that his revelation of a sensitive nature will make you all the more a strong successor to his title.
All stories of love and death must own their tragic sides, and this one is no different. Don Rosario, your dear father e capo della nostra famiglia, god rest his soul, makes mention of a further note to conclude the tale he describes in questa lettera. But he died too soon, and I think the angels now depend on me to finish what my good friend began. Visit me soon, Don Bolini. You might even ride in Schiavo’s sidecar on his return voyage. Your father’s lettera is clipped to this one, so please turn the page.
I await you con affeto e rispetto.
Assistant to Don Rosario,
Capo della nostra famiglia
10 di agosto 2021
You must know more than the side of me that for so many years commanded rispetto from women and soldiers. I must tell you of mis partes femminiles, that you might rule with tenderness as well as strength. I haven’t much time left for writing; even now I hear the soft feather beat behind the last verses of Ave Maria. I’m hoping for at least a few more days, but who can tell?
For several tragic months, long ago now, I was the helpless victim of Luigi’s lack of impulse control. At the time I tried emphatically to convince Luigi to attend the Tuesday-night functions of our local support group (we gathered inside a green-fluorescent church basement blessed with presbyterian shadows and catholic holy water, there to moan our twelve-step recipes for heaven’s ravioli and to hum sweet repetitions of our manicotti mantras).
Luigi resisted all my pleas for his cooperation. He insisted that he needed no outside support and that wooden folding chairs could do him permanent brain damage. Of course, I lost my temper with the povercito mio, and a softly stubborn Luigi retreated ever farther from my voice the more I begged, slinking back and inward as if to entertain the testicular fascinations of a wounded turtle addicted to prosac. For six months he made himself a hermit and I suffered all the more for his clinical depression.
These were among the darkest days of my existence. No amount of coaxing, crying or commanding could shake Luigi from his determination to shrivel up and die. I begged, and eventually I prayed — oh yes, even I must resort to prayer in desperate times — for Luigi’s return to an active life. I whispered Hallmark verses and quoted Playboy platitudes. I lipsang purple dance tunes and yodelled diaper lullabies. I chanted Gregorian renditions of Ms. Cameron’s latest pieties.
Nothing worked and I was a mess. Even now, at this honest and nervous moment, I find that tickling this phantom of a lost time prevents me from the further telling. I am choked and tearful and I can’t go on. Not for a while at least. No matter how close may come the angels.
I’ll walk away from this lettera and shiver back to my bed. I’ll throw myself onto my flowery down comforter, clutch my lace-edged pillow and weep (you must never be afraid to weep, Bolini). If none of this works to bring me back toward sanity, then I’ll give myself a makeover, shave my face and treat my hair to another coat of Shirley’s Copper Blush.
Soon enough I’m sure that I’ll recover from this traumatic retrogression, and then perhaps I’ll relate to you the final chapter, the one I like to call “Epilogue, Luigi Comes Home.”
Maybe later, figlio mio. For now lonely lacrimas cloud my eyes and the words begin to blur. Oh god, life can be so sad and femminile!
Capo della nostra famiglia