I got to hang out with a dear friend I met by chance many years ago in Vancouver. I drank water that came from the springs in Bonefro. I felt the glow of the sun from inside my skin and stood where emperors sat. I caught a bug or heat stroke or a little of both. I had a doctor prescribe various remedies and say that if I didn't feel like eating, I shouldn't be forced to eat. I'll let that sink in for a moment, that blasphemous stomach-aiding advice...It's excruciating for generous Italians not to feed their guests.
AND AND AND...I saw my father's house, our ancestral home damaged by an earthquake in 2002. The quake happened shortly after eleven in the morning and its epicentre was in a neighboring village, San Giuliano di Puglia. An elementary school, a structure that should have been seismic proofed, collapsed and many children died there that day. The footage set off a chain reaction in me, a reminder of the time my parents and I sat glued to the television watching traumatizing scenes of the Irpinia earthquake. A deadly disaster and an example of craven greed.
I was still ill when this earthquake struck and woke me up; I have been heartsick ever since.
Italy, my Everest. I had a Sherpa, an oxygen tank, an amulet, souvenir aims, and colossal hope. Then a goal appeared that I didn't even realize was on the horizon until I was there, talking with the elders in my mom's family. I explained everything that we (me and my father) had endured as a result of my mother's illness. I told story after story recounting every difficulty, several hardships, multiple blows and countless humiliations. I listed the tsunami of loss that consumed a lifetime's work by my father in its wake. I talked and talked and I did some listening too. Perhaps I thought I needed them to understand, but what I really wanted was to be clear in the telling and particularly plain in the portrayal of unrelenting psychosis, the damage unleashed when combined with a bad-tempered personality.
It wasn't until I got home, Saturday night the same week of the quake, spent and confused, jet-lagged and jittery, re-reading the news in English that I let myself cry. This is absurd and unusual for me. Seriously: I once sobbed through a Royale Toilet paper commercial with white fluffy joy-filled kittens. I'm certain I was frequently diagnosed with the cooties, that scourge of playgrounds everywhere, simply because it was easy to get me to bawl like a baby.
The next morning, my father came over after Mass and said, "I hoped...I imagined one day you'd go and tell them what I lived through here. And you've done it while I'm still alive. I can't tell you what it means to me."
And here I thought he was against this trip. He didn't say anything to indicate he was, I could see and sense his Worry Factor had kicked into overdrive.
Writer Leslie Marmon Silko says, "I will tell you something about stories. They aren't just entertainment. They are all we have to fight off illness and death. You don't have anything if you don't have stories."
We are not here just for ourselves. We live in a world where religious and political figures have failed us repeatedly, where corporations put profit before people, where corruption is an inexhaustible resource, where some have lined their pockets with blood-soaked money. This is the blood of innocents and ignores a fundamental part of the human condition; we are pack animals, creatures who need each other to survive. My father taught me that we are not here just for ourselves. The Hero's journey ends with a return home wherein she then uses her new found knowledge to help others. True power empowers others. Everything else is avarice that will be buried with our mortal coils.
We are the stories we tell about ourselves and others. Stay true. Keep the faith. Do what you can.