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Sunday, February 02, 2014

A Painful Experience

Yesterday was...August 14, 1968 My mother died in April. She was 54 and I hadn't heard anything from her since I arrived in Italy in '64. I was never very good about communicating with my mother- it was something I knew I should do but I was always puting it off and now it was too late. I struggled with her death and my guilt. Maybe if I had made more of an effort to keep in touch? I never knew she had been sick until I learned that she'd been in hospital for several months before she had a stroke. She was very high strung and perhaps bi-polar. A short, unhappy life marked by great disappointment and loneliness. My father left us - my mother and my two brothers when I was seven (On Pearl Harbor Day) and she never recovered or remarried until just a few years before she died. I fell from a cliff in the foothills of the Alps overlooking Lake Como. My first wife, Jacqueline and I had rented an apartment close to the Lake where we spent weekends. In the morning, before my fall, we had an argument and I left the house in a fit of anger and climbed the hill behind the house in worn tennis shoes. I remember reaching a point on the face of the hill which was almost vertical (I'd been there before) and I had to grab an overhanging rock to swing over to the trail. Evidently, I lost my grip or the rock came loose and the next thing I remember is lying on my back in a clearing and there was boy saying in Italian "Your Lili's father, I like Lili, she's funny" and I asked him to find help because I couldn't move and I hurt my back. The boy was known as "il cretino di villagio" ( "the village idiot" he and his brother collected and sold firewood that they collected in the forest. I lost consciousness and when I woke up I was in a hospital and a doctor was asking me how I felt and if I was in pain. I said I was and he told the nurse who was standing by the bed to fetch something for "Signor Smeeta" . The sister came back a few minutes later with a cp of tea . I then asked the doctor why he offered me a cup of tea when I was in great pain from the injuries I had sustained and he said "You Americans think that pain is some kind of an unnecessary problem that must be avoided but the truth is that pain is the only way we can diagnose your condition and help you to heal. We don't use the powerful pain killers here except in very unusual and extreme circumstances." So I learned to live with my pain and eventually walked out of the hospital on my own two legs without assistance (after I had been awarded 75% permanent disability) Now, almost 50 years later, my stupidity has caught up with me and I've been diagnosed with stenosis caused by the injuries to my spine so many years ago. So it is true that "You can run you cannot hide" from destiny.