Monday, October 17, 2011

"The 12 Commandments - by Grandpa Silvio"

How many emails do we receive every day? Tons, don't we? 
Most of them are routine messages and we don't really pay attention to them. I mean, very few really catch our eyes. 
But today, in that dry world of my email account full of advertisements, spams and Facebook notifications, I received something that was different from all the others and, to me, it deserves some further consideration. That email arose a lot of conflicting feelings in me and, somehow, I know it will affect my life from now on.

The email in question was sent by my grandfather Silvio. 
Nonno ("grandpa" in Italian) Silvio is my mother's dad, an extraordinary man born in Bari, main city of the beautiful Apulia region, 85 years ago. Yes, "extraordinary" is the right adjective for him, because Silvio Panaro has always been everything BUT ordinary.
He's the only grandparent that I have left and he's a volcano in perennial activity. For his family I am sure that his exuberance was not always easy to deal with, but he's the kind of person (threatened with extinction) that has a lot to tell and to teach.
Grandpa Silvio is a son of the post-war Italian economic miracle. He saw massive changes taking place and he has been smart enough to become part of many of them. He is a man whose life started in extremely tough conditions at the beginning of the XXth century. His determination, however, enabled him to reverse an unfortunate begin into a bright future. A future where he became a successful business man, an esteemed columnist, a diplomat, a credited artist and a very special grandpa of 13 grandchildren. 

Going back to the content of his email... I want to write about it because otherwise I know I will forget all these relevant and private connections my soul and brain are making.
Relevant to me, as nonno Silvio's words had the power to provoke conflicting reactions in me: a slightly uncomfortable sense of injustice and satisfactory sense of fulfillment at the same time. 
Nonno Silvio sent me, and the rest of my family, the draft of his latest book. Yes, he's a  published author and poet and this latest creation is probably the more intimate he has ever written. In it, he collects compositions dedicated to his loved ones: family members and closest friends. 
I don't want to dwell on why some parts were so hard to digest. It certainly has to do with unhealthy mechanisms that make you mistakenly think you somehow have a say in your relatives' life decisions. I realize that I really don't, but I can't come to understand that all the poems written for a woman, all the odes of love, are not dedicated to my sweet (rest in peace) grandmother Maria. They were all written, not always legitimately, for my grandpa's present wife: Lucia. A good woman who certainly deserved and deserves to be loved, but who entered my grandparent's family life a little too early, a little too mischievously. And it's impossible not to link her appearance with a bitter note, overshadowing all her indisputable good qualities. I'm pretty sure my sense of discomfort would multiply disproportionally if thinking from my mom's perspective. A perspective that strongly believes her mother, my grandmother Maria, may have lived longer if only my grandpa would have made different choices. I don't know if it makes sense, and obviously it doesn't matter anymore, but one thing is certain. My nonnna's heart could have suffered much less.

Anyways...Let's go back to a more positive thinking. I want to share the valuable good of this email!!!
Keeping reading through the many poems and pieces written by my grandpa, I found a special one dedicated to his grandchildren. That includes me and it's significant to me.
I read his writing as his moral will to us: a precious lesson that I will never forget. 

This is the original version in Italian: 

Ai miei nipoti
  1. Quando vi alzate la mattina bevete alcuni bicchieri d’acqua, lavatevi i denti e fatevi il segno della Croce, affrontando la giornata con serenità e fiducia
  2. Scegliete la professione o gli affari che meglio si convengono alle vostre attitudini 
  3. La vostra parola sia sempre verità 
  4. Qualunque cosa facciate, fatela con tutte le vostre forze 
  5. Non esagerate nel mangiare, non fate uso di bevande alcoliche, ma solo mezzo bicchiere a pasto
  6. Sperate sempre, senza tuttavia illudervi troppo 
  7. Non sperperate le vostre forze in varie faccende disparate 
  8. Scegliete buoni amici e buoni collaboratori   
  9. Siate economi  
  10.  Se volete perdere un amico prestateli del denaro  
  11.  Contate solo su di voi
  12.   Dulcis in fundo ricordatevi che l’onestà è il miglior investimento che si possa fare nella vita.
Nonno Silvio
It's not easy to literally translate, but I'll try...

To my Grandchildren
  1. When you wake up every morning drink a few glasses of water and brush your teeth. Then make the Sign of the Cross and face the new day trustfully with happiness.
  2. Choose business activities and careers that better suit your aptitudes. 
  3. Make sure your word always corresponds to the truth.
  4. Try your best at everything you do.
  5. Do not eat too much. Control your consumption of alcohol, limit it to only half glass each meal (He doesn't specify it, but the half glass is intended of wine)
  6. Always keep hoping, without deceiving yourself.
  7. Don't splurge your time and energies in many disparate activities.
  8. Pick good friends and good collaborators. 
  9. Don't spend too much. Be provident. 
  10. If you want to loose a friend, lend him some money.
  11. Only count on yourself. 
  12. "Dulcis in fundo" remember, honesty is the only investment that will pay off for the rest of your life.
Nonno Silvio

My grandfather has not been a perfect man. Like all the great charismatic, sensitive and complex people, he caused some suffering, but he surely generated much more love and happiness.
Personally, I didn't have a patriarchal guide in my life. Sometimes I wish I did, but let's just say that my father was not that type of guide. These "12 commandments" are precious and relevant to me:
Every morning I wake up, I drink two glasses of water and, looking at the sun rising in the desert, I make the Sign of the Cross and welcome the new day with joy.

Grazie Nonno Silvio


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