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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Way to go by John von Daler

        My favorite uncle grew up in Florence
but moved to the United States as a young man, when he no longer believed in God or in the Catholic faith.
       For years he sold insurance, making enough money to be able to hang his tennis sweater on his back with the sleeves tied loosely around his tanned throat. He was a charming person whose forehand probably hit home with about the same intensity as his foreplay.
  He came from one of the most influential
families in Toscana, not a Medici, but still a lineage capable of fashioning its own small renaissances. 
       Except for his wife, no one was very
surprised when he at the age of fifty quit 
insurancing, got divorced, started painting 
pictures and seduced my aunt. 
       These events brought this blunt and
charming man into my life. A glass of chianti,
a ripe tomato with basil, a thought or two about brushstrokes or counterpoint and he could word you through whatever art you never really had understood before now. Quite the treat for this teenager.
       Unfortunately, our ways parted as I moved to Denmark and he folded and unfolded his easel up and down the eastern half of the U.S.
  Now this little story, like so much else in our world, only has a beginning and an end
without substance in between.
  Many years later I visited Florence and
found myself thinking about my old friend
as I stood watching some of Michangelo's
statues fight their way out of sheer stone.
  Later I was told that he had been admitted at exactly the same time to a hospital in Missouri.
       He had gotten cancer. They had moved him into a terminal ward. On the day of his death he lay in bed half-watching Wimbledon tennis. My aunt sat by his side knitting.
       In the late afternoon a nurse came throu
gh the room, looked at my uncle and whispered to my aunt, Your husband is dying. Should I get a priest?
  My own personal Medici rose up indignantly and grabbed at a rope above the bed. Turning red in the face, he shouted, HELL NO! - and died.

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