Sunday, March 3, 2013
Back abroad . . . but without the broad
March 2, 2013
The joy of being back in Italy is dampened by the reality that I am here alone this time. In January, we discovered during a routine mammogram that Lucy had a small lump of cancer. After hearing the ominous phrase “you have cancer” and undergoing an ultrasound, two biopsies and an MRI, Lucy heard the best news one can hope to hear at that stage: the cancer was at stage zero, all located in one tiny spot, and it was non-invasive. And I use the past tense, because Feb. 13, the cancer was surgically removed, and God willing, it is gone for good.
We agonized over what to do about our planned three-month hiatus in San Salvatore, scheduled to being Feb. 3. No way did I want to risk delaying the surgery, so we scheduled the operation for as soon as possible. But what to do after that? Our surgeon said standard procedure after a lumpectomy was a month of healing and then six weeks of radiation, five days a week. That would mean that maybe Lucy could come to Italy just past the middle of April. But the surgeon also said that radiation patients were usually pretty tired for a couple of weeks after treatment, so would there really be much point in her coming? We have to start gearing up for our summer business in May, so a lengthy extension of the trip was not an option.
We could have canceled altogether and just rescheduled for next year, but I have hopes of putting together a manuscript about our Italy experiences by the end of this year and then searching for a book publisher. I still have research to do that can only be done in Italy, and to wait another year would be a major disappointment. Also, it is extremely difficult for me to write at home. We have a huge yard and a 40-year-old home, and I have a long list of projects to do both inside and outside the house—nothing urgent, really, but I get a great deal of pleasure out of working with my hands and crossing projects off my list. I can’t sit down and write at home for more than an hour without wanting to jump up and refinish a door, prepare a strawberry bed, plant some flowers, build a chicken coop, fix a leaky drain or split some more firewood. The only way I can only focus on writing and research is to get away from my beautiful home.
Lucy strongly urged me to go without her. “You have this urge to write,” she said, “and you can really concentrate if you are there alone. The doctors say I can easily drive myself for the radiation treatments, and the hospital is only 10 minutes away.” I had to fight strong feelings of guilt to even consider going, but Lucy felt convinced this was the way it was meant to be, even saying she’d be disappointed knowing that she was preventing me from finishing what I had started. We decided I would stay home for the surgery and the first weeks of her recovery, and then I would go for eight weeks instead of three months. We would use some frequent flier miles to bring daughter Lindsey over for a 10-day visit at the end of March. Hopefully during the seven weeks I will be alone, I can pack in enough research and writing to bring some closure to this project, which would also mean that next year, when Lucy and I go together to Italy, our agenda will be nearly wide open.
I stayed up until near 2 a.m. tying up loose ends with our home and finances, and I wrote instructions for Lucy regarding how to document and pay the medical expenses. She will take over my morning routine of feeding the chickens, horses and dog (she’s already been in charge of cat care). We have wonderful neighbors and family who will check in on her and can help if something important around the house breaks or she needs a ride to have the car repaired.
Now I am on the plane, seemingly with every detail covered. Yes, I already miss Lucy, but I have set her up with a separate Skype account so we can check in every day. I am planning my activities for the first day and week—take the train to San Salvatore, set up the apartment, let friends know I am back and then establish a work schedule. I will need to go regularly to the parish archives in Pescia and to municipal buildings in various local cities. I have already traced the Spadoni and Seghieri family lines back to the 14th and 15th centuries, respectively, but this year I want to branch out. I hope to trace the origins of some other Spadoni families from the Valdinievole region who went to different American cities: Chicago, Alameda, San Francisco and even nearby Tacoma. I hope to dig deeply enough to find out how our Gig Harbor branch is related to these other families. I also want to find out how the various Seghieri families who live in San Salvatore are related. There are at least three families living side by side with the same surname and they haven’t dug deeply enough into the past to know where and how they are connected.
And then there are experiences I don’t even know about that will be interesting enough to write about. I can’t stay cooped in my room all day; I will get out and explore and see what happens. Almost every day out of the house in Italy is an eye-opener.