Chapter XXIV - Connecting
On the next day we visited a brother of my husband's barber. He had asked my husband to visit his mother, an 85-year-old woman, and his brother to ascertain if they needed help. His brother had asked for help claiming that a son of his was very ill and needed a lot of medical care. Those people lived in a nearby town. We went there and intro-duced ourselves. The brother was at work but his wife asked us to come in. She was very cordial and asked for news about the relatives in America. We asked where the mother lived and she gave us directions. She offered us refreshments and then started to talk about her sick son. We did not tell her the real reason we were there. She thought we had come to deliver an envelope her brother-in-law had sent. She took us to see her son in the sick room. He was in bed, a beautiful young man of 23. His hand on the coverlet was transparent, his eyes were sunken, and there was a pallor on his face. We told him that his uncle had asked us to visit him. We left the room with a prayer on my lips for that beautiful young man.
Then we proceeded to find the old woman, who was living with an unmarried daughter. The daughter was running a small grocery store and making a very meager living for the two of them. The old woman was sitting in front of the store. We told her that her son had sent us to give her his regards. She called her daughter. I was startled when I saw her. I felt that I knew her but could not place her. She began to tell us how hard it was for her with her mother to care for and to make a living. She asked us to please tell her brother in America that she needed help to care for their mother.
When we were about to leave I asked her if she ever had lived in Atripalda. She said, "Why, yes!" She said that when she was very young she had lived with a brother that had a barber shop in Atripalda. I asked if she had attended school there. She said she had. Then I told her my maiden name and she remembered that we were in the same class. Of all the people I had seen she was the only link with my young years.
That same night we went to visit one more family. One of our best friends had asked us to do this. Our friend's mother, a 97-year-old woman, was living with a son of 79 in a town about ten miles away from the town I came from. Our dear friend, Sam DeAngelis, had given us an envelope to give to his mother.
We hired a taxicab for the trip. When we got there we asked where Sadie DeAngelis' house was located. We had the address and we were told where to go. When we got there we asked for Sadie. A very small, neat, almost fragile woman appeared and crisply asked us what we wanted. We told her that her son Sam from America had sent us. She invited us in. There were four of us - my husband, myself, my brother-in-law and the taxi driver. She put two of her fingers in her mouth and a shrill whistle brought young grandchildren to her command. She whispered in their ears and everyone disappeared.
She began to apologize for being caught unaware. My husband handed her the envelope her son had sent. Meanwhile more people were coming in and activity was apparent.
The fire was being started. We protested that we did not have time to stay because we were to leave early the next morning. She said, "What would my son think of me if I did not honor a visit from a friend of his? His friends are also friends of mine."
The table was set. I demonstrated that I did not want to cause her work. She said with asperity, "What would my son in America think of me if I had not done my duty?" Now I agreed with her and complimented her on her fine thinking. She was pleased and she busied herself supervising activities. She was setting the table with the finest tablecloth and napkins, beautiful crystal glasses and china dishes. The table was set fit for a king's banquet. Then platters of fine foods began to arrive, as well as freshly baked bread and fine wines. She motioned for us to sit at the table with many members of her family. After eating, a big tray of luscious fruits was served. Then came coffee and a huge tray of delicious pastries. I especially admired a pitcher of sparkling spring water. The crystal pitcher with the drops of water dripping on the side was the spirit of a 97-year-old woman with the mind of a youth.
There was more than one kind of wine. Good cheer pervaded the room. Then someone appeared with a musical instrument and a strain of sweet music joined the mood of the magical night. Induced by the music, our hostess raised her voice in a song. Her 79-year-old son joined her. It was a great pleasure to see these two people, both old, singing in unison to the strains of the music.
My brother-in-law and the taxi driver declared they had never spent a more enjoyable night. It was very late when we left that beautiful company and I never will forget the lovely 97-year-old lady that provided us with so much pleasure. On our way home we kept marveling at the spirit, the alertness and the grace of our hostess. We had met so many lovely people that night.
The next day we arose early, had breakfast and said good-by. My young niece from Atripalda came to see us leave. This was the hardest part of our trip. We were leaving for the second time people that meant so much to us. We stepped into the taxi, waved our hands, and the car started. Our relatives were wiping their eyes. My husband brought his index finger to the corner of his eyes. We sat sadly in our seats not noticing anything.
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