DECEMBER NIGHTS IN the mountains of the Abruzzo are long. People get cabin-fever in these snow-bound high villages on the Adriatic coast of central Italy. By the winter solstice, it is not unusual for the locals to devise escapades on the slightest of whims. Still, I was pissed off with my cousin Ennio, with my Abruzzese relatives and with Sean, my husband. They should never have let my father go with them that night, down the mountain into the valley, into the village of Rocca di Sangro.
Apparently Papa wanted to attend evening mass. Yeah, right. More like a smoke and drink half-a-dozen shots of the local spirit, centerba.
At ninety-one, my father was terminally ill. He wanted a lot of things belonging to his younger self. Like hanging out at Bar Zu in the Piazza Garibaldi, gossiping with the old men he grew up with, gli anziani with their gnarled olive-harvest hands.