Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dante, Ivo and vinegar for the Germans

Friday, March 4
I have mentioned previously that with cousin Enrico and family, we are able to communicate fairly well. On the opposite end of the scale is Dante Seghieri, who lives in the long Seghieri house just a couple of houses away from us. We first met him last spring, and he talked to us about five minutes then about how he lost his daughter in an auto accident. Or was it his son? Or maybe he lost both daughter and son in the same accident, or in two different accidents? We have talked to him three or four times in the last month, and each time he talks about his children, who aren’t here, and sometimes he mentions his late wife. We can’t seem to understand exactly what happened to everyone.

I don’t know why we have such trouble understanding him. I keep thinking that the next time we will do better, but each time I leave as confused as the time before. What makes it worse is that he doesn’t seem to grasp that we don’t follow him. He continues to talk despite the looks of utter confusion on our faces that the other Italians seem to pick up very well. We ask questions to try to understand better, and we tell him, “Non abbiamo capito,” but he just continues on.

What if he has invited us to come in for a cup of coffee and we unintentionally ignored his invitation? We can tell that his is not a particularly happy life, and we don’t want to add to his sorrow, but it seems that the most we can do is provide an opportunity for him to voice his sadness. He is obviously deeply affected by the things that life has dealt him, because it is not usual for someone to tell virtual strangers one’s problems over and over again.

Today, Stefano and Nancy Mammi arrive from Padova to visit us for the weekend. Both have doctorate degrees in chemistry and teach at the famous university there. When Stefano was studying abroad in America, he met Nancy, a beautiful and intelligent americana. They married and moved to Padova. Nancy has since become an Italian citizen, and both are completely bi-lingual. I tell them about my problems understanding Dante in case we see him this weekend, so that Stefano and Nancy can serve as interpreters and we can finally get his story straight.

An opportunity comes when we take a walk and come across not Dante but Ivo. Perhaps he will be able to shed some light on Dante. Usually I can understand Ivo okay. He has a tendency to talk too quickly, but he usually slows down and repeats himself when he sees us look bewildered. Today, though, he is in rare form once he discovers that Stefano and Nancy can keep up with him. Ivo talks rapidly and nonstop for a good ten minutes before Stefano can even get in a question about Dante, and then Ivo is off for another ten minutes. Lucy and I are lost for 80 percent of this, but we will wait until later to get Stefano’s summary.

The conversation ends with Ivo talking about his vigna, his vineyard, and his wine-making. He bottled 800 liters of wine last year. Would we like a bottle? This I understand very well, and I accept enthusiastically a large bottle of unlabeled vino rosso.  Afterwards, Stefano is not surprised that we had trouble following the conversation, because Ivo has covered a lot of ground and jumped quickly from one subject to the next.

Ivo told Stefano and Nancy that Dante is 87 and doesn’t speak clearly, and it is sometimes hard for Ivo to understand him as well. Dante once had two daughters, and both are dead, but the one he talks about the most died when she was only 20. Her fiancĂ© was driving a car and something happened to him and he went off the road, and the daughter was killed. Dante took this hard, and his wife took it even harder, remaining in her house and in bed much of the time for a couple of years. The other daughter died when she was in her 40s. We are not sure when his wife died, but his son is still alive and he has a son of his own. They live elsewhere in the region, and Ivo seems to feel that the son and the grandson should be doing more to look after Dante’s well being. There is a possibility that the grandson may come to live with Dante in the future.

As for Ivo, we learn that he has no children, but he has had two wives, both from Russia. The first one left him after only a few months to go to Rome to continue her university studies. The second is currently visiting family in Russia. She has a son there from a previous marriage. Ivo misses her and hopes she will return soon.

As he hands me a large bottle of wine, he tells me if it is not good, give it back. He also adds with a smile that during the war, when a batch of wine went bad and turned to vinegar, his father would keep these bottles in the front of the cantina. Then when the German soldiers demanded wine, his father had something appropriate to give them. Even better, the Germans didn't want any more of his father's wine.

1 comment:

  1. Old men are always hard to understand. I think the lower timbre of their voices plus they tend to slur things? At least, that's how Dan and I found it with Russian. Women were easier to understand. Or maybe, they are more accustomed to talking to children...?


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