To all persons who have lost a parent at too young of an age, I ride for you… especially you Mom.
I never met my grandfather, Carlo Franceschini. He was a family doctor in Italy and passed away at the young age of 55 from brain cancer in 1969. My mother was only 23. I wasn’t even a thought then, so by the time I did come along, I never knew life any differently. I only had one grandfather, my “Nonno” on my father’s side. We incorporated some traditions from the Franceschini household; my favorite being a grand nativity scene at Christmas with miniature figurines that took up a whole table top that my mom would transform into the entire town of Bethlehem. Over the years I acquired some of those pieces, along with artwork and antiques that were handed down to me that adorned her family home. While I treasure those items, it wasn’t until I became a mother myself that I really started considering what it would be like without a father during that time of my life.
My mother, Vanna, was completing her Master’s thesis in graduate school at the time her father was diagnosed. Looking back, she said there were signs but given his profession he was most likely aware and kept most of the disease to himself while making preparations behind the scenes for his eventual passing. The first sign to the family of his decline was a sudden stroke during a cross-country trip from Italy to Amsterdam to pick up her little sister, my Aunt Patrizia, who was returning from a summer abroad program. My mother had to split from her parents and complete the trip independently while her parents rushed back to Italy for her father to be hospitalized. For three days she could not reach them and didn’t know the state of his condition. When she reunited with her sister, they flew back to Italy and discovered him alive but paralyzed on one side of his body. He was eventually released and appeared to recover for several months following that episode. Things seemed to progress. He was getting the care he needed and was recovering his strength – enough so that despite the argument my mother put up, he convinced her to take time away from her studies to join some friends on a ski trip in late February. She would never see her father again.
Mom insists it was her father’s divine intervention when she met my dad a few months later. She said they resembled each other in many ways – handsome, intelligent and family oriented. They wed in 1971, almost two years after the death of her father. The following year, my older sister was born. Thirteen months later, my mother had me, less than four years shy of having the opportunity to have met my grandfather. My mom missed out on having her dad see her graduate, walk her down the aisle at her wedding, hold his grandchildren, and be a part of the adventure that came next as we moved from Italy to the United States in 1977… and eventually the birth of another granddaughter in 1984.
I admire my father. He’s been by my side during the best and worst of times and through them all, always showed me love and encouragement. He’s the person I want to share my successes with and get advice from. His relationships with my husband and son are incredibly important to me. I admire so many of his qualities, but it took a lot of growing up before I could really appreciate the father he was. The relationship you develop with your parents as an adult is different and gratifying in varying ways than the relationship with them as a child. That was something my mom was robbed of due to her dad’s cancer.
The same way my mom knows that her father brought her my dad, I’m convinced that he brought me my son, Lucas, who would have been Carlo's first great-grandson. They share a special date; and since 2006, every March 1st, instead of mourning the anniversary of the loss of her dad, my Mom gets to celebrate the birth of her first grandson.
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