May 9, 2012
salvatore de fazio
Salvatore De Fazio
Sam was my mother’s cousin. (His mother and my maternal grandfather – Eugenio Perri – were sister and brother.) He died today after a two year bout with cancer.
In the picture, he is in the front row, seated on the far left. (Seated – Salvatore, me, Mafalda, Connie and Ciccio.) As a matter of fact, Salvatore gave me this picture. Our copy is lost somewhere in my parents’ house in Sault Ste Marie.
Salvatore’s family is from Corte. His mother was a Perri. My parents lived in Corte after getting married and it’s the neighborhood where I was born. (Our house was next door to Salvatore’s family.) My mother favored her father’s side of the family and many of her best friends are from that branch. (My grandmother’s family is from Santo Stefano – the neighborhood up the hill. And her family house was in that parish, so that when they left for Canada, my parents inherited the house and we moved up the hill. But all my favorite relatives were down in Corte and I constantly went up and down the hillside visiting.)
Salvatore left Aprigliano at the same time we did; we traveled to the new world together. Salvatore was there that first night when I ate-up all my soup only to throw it up into the bowl I had just emptied. He was there below deck as I stood and stared at the Orthodox priest and his wife. He was there as Mafalda hid Connie’s chickenpox from the authorities in Halifax. He was there with me as I leaned out the train window and saw a priest in his cassock crossing the rails in the Montreal train-yard. But then he left, taking a south-bound train to St. Catherines. We headed north to my grandparents and Sault Ste Marie.
A couple of hours ago, Mafalda called me to tell me that Sam had died. (I knew Salvatore was very ill. I chose not to go visit him back in October, because I didn’t want to see him dying.) I was in DC, at a bowling alley, with my 10th graders when my phone rang. I stepped into the night into the rain and listened as Mafalda cried. Mafalda’s best friends were from this side of the family, and I too liked this branch, in fact Salvatore was one of my favorites. (From this favorite branch, only Maria Lucente is left in Corte and I always visit with her when I’m in Calabria. BTW, the room she is in, is my parents’ first apartment and I was born in this room.)
Among the extended family, in Canada, Sam is known for his amazing fig-trees. And the fig-trees that grow in my backyard, that grow in Rick and Sarah’s backyard, that grow in Rose and Derrick’s backyard are from Sam’s garden in St. Catherines. (The original cuttings come from the mature trees on his family’s land in Corte.) Mine is a white fig, Sam’s favorite.
Sam, I’ll always think of you, of Corte, of the boat, of the ocean we crossed all those years ago when I look at the fig-trees.