Sunday, August 18, 2013

TODAY IS THE CENTENARY OF MY FATHER’S BIRTH

Time fades memories, but the teachings and lessons we receive from people we love and esteem remain undeletable in our minds and influence our actions for life on a conscious or on an unconscious level.

My father was born on August 18, 1913.  Today is the centenary of his birth. I remember him as an extraordinarily intelligent man, who although had a “scientific mind”, as it is to be expected from an engineer, also had a variety of eclectic interests such as theatre and politics and  he was not afraid to show his emotions. I remember my father often shedding tears during moving film scenes, which never failed to rise benevolently humorous comments from my mother and from me.

What I admired mostly in my father was that he never made any statement on any subject unless he was knowledgeable on that matter and his statements always allowed space for debate.  Otherwise he would limit himself to listen with interest and humility. He often reminded me the Socrates’ quote “the more you learn, the more you realize how little you know”

Born and raised in Piedmont (North Western region of Italy, bordering with France), which is the main wine producing region in Italy, my father naturally grew up as a food and wine connoisseur.  Enjoying  good food  remained a pillar of his life. I still miss our dinners at home that used to last never less than one and an half hour. Food was enjoyed together with good conversation: nourishment of  the body and of the mind.

Although intransigent towards my mistakes, my father was very forgiving of other people’s flaws, dismissing them with a  “Nobody is perfect” reminder.  He had a generous heart and he despised people  “who have the heart on their left and keep their wallets on their right”, that is they care  so much for money that they do not share it even with the ones who say to love nor they give to the causes  they say to care for .

My father had a strong sense of fairness and justice and he taught me to stand up against all injustices. If for example, I felt that I  had suffered an injustice in school, he pushed me to confront the teacher and if I felt that justice was still not redressed, I  was encouraged to bring the matter to the school principal. He would not do it for me and he did not accept any complaints on my part unless I went through all the avenues in my power to rectify any injustice. He, however, warned me that when you fight for fairness and justice, you must be prepared to suffer consequences:  the vindictiveness and retaliation of which human beings are capable. He and his father (my grandfather) had experienced it in first person as result of their opposition to war, violence and dictatorship during the Italian Fascist era.  

Standing up and speaking for what I feel is just, has became a second nature for me and that has  cost me some inevitable consequences, but no matter how  detrimental the consequences have been,  I never had any regrets for acting as  I thought  was fair and just.  

Another important lesson I learned from my father was the strong sense of commitment.   He never tolerated  any  ”I cannot do it”  excuse.  If you want to do anything, you will commit your energies and intelligence to it and you will succeed. That was his strong belief and it has  become mine. Being an only child, for my father’s election, I grew up getting close supervision and constant inculcation of examples. My father used to bring to my attention and show admiration for career women (even though there were not many while I was growing up), pointing them out to me as examples to emulate. Given the teaching I received at home, I never felt that there was any door closed to me just because of my sex. Unfortunately I was unpleasantly surprised when I  confronted “ the real world”:  my father thinking was light years ahead of time!

When my father died, I was working at the Press and Information  Department of the European Union in Bruxelles and my father was proud of me and looking forward to more future brilliant achievements.

Life proceeded a bit erratic for me after my father’s passing  as I  had difficulties dealing with my father’s death, especially since it was  the first death  I had to deal with in my life. Fortunately, a cat came to my rescue. One day, while I was working in my office at the Commission  of the European Union, I received a call  from a friend working at the Quebec Delegation in Buxelles. She knew how much I loved cats, although I never had any and that morning she had temporarily stopped her neighbour from taking to the pound a young cat. She had only a few hours left to find a home for her. She pleaded with me. I had no idea how I could care for a cat since I was often travelling, but I could not let that cat die so I accepted to take her. I naively thought that unwanted cats have something wrong and they are sick or not pretty and I was prepared anyway to deal with whatever problem.  I was so surprised when  I was delivered the cat that evening, to see coming out from  the carrier an absolutely adorable,  gorgeous  three to four month old kitten, white and grey,  with the most bright, perky eyes. I called her Tiffy  and all my life immediately became centered around her. Little I knew that Tiffy was going to be the first of many hundreds of cats coming my way.  Tiffy helped me tremendously to recover from my father’s death.

Two years after my father’s death,  I ended in Canada, with my darling Tiffy obviously. I would have never left her out of sight. Even on  my way to Toronto, Tiffy stayed on the sit next to mine in the plane cabin.

I sometimes wonder how my father would have felt about my life’s detour:  living in Canada, working in real estate, founding ORA-Organization for the Rescue of Animals, rescuing cats and dogs and advocating the fair and just treatment of animals.   Perhaps he would have not been too surprised. After all, he knew that I had always been a bit too “original” and adventurous, to say the least.

My father respected animals, but he donated to orphanages. He felt a lot of compassion for homeless and abandoned children. My compassion is for homeless and abandoned companion animals, pretty well along the same line of thinking. Unconsciously, I followed my father teachings, giving all I had both in terms of energies and finances to my cause.  Just writing this eulogy, I had a revelation. Thirty five years after my father’s death, for the first time, I am realizing  that, while I tried to live my life on my own terms, distancing myself from the too rigid upbringing I received , ironically  I ended complying with my father teachings more than I would have ever thought possible and probably more than he would have ever expected.

Claudia Vecchio