I met my Dad coming out of a lift. I didn´t give him a chance of nervously pacing around a waiting room, sitting down and jumping up again. I was there when he arrived at the hospital, being carried around on the arm of a nurse. I don´t remember this momentous meeting, but my father does.
What I remember are the times he took me to the printshops. I felt privileged to sneak a look at the enormous machines, smell the ink and see the huge paper rolls that were used to create the newspaper, which my father worked on. It was also very noisy, but I didn´t mind because that was part of the magic.
My Dad the journalist
I took it for granted that we lived in Europe, my father came from the States and had married an italian lady. Until recently I did not appreciate where he came from. In the course of this year we have spent many hours chatting about his childhood in a cozy midwestern town called Oak Harbor. We talked about the accident, which nearly killed him when he was seven and left him with one eye. We talked about him leaving his town and beginning life on his own at the University of Notre Dame (while still sending home all his wash ) and how he tried to get a foothold as cartoonist and journalist in the States after graduation.
He went to Europe as a tourist and decided to look for a job while there. He got lucky in Rome, where the “Daily American” was being published. A paper where, while it still existed, I also was able to visit the printshop. This is where he met a girl called Maria. He went off to Paris to work for the Herald Tribune, but found that he really missed the lady that became my Mother – Mummy – Mum. She joined him, while mastering climbing mountains of bureaucracy that were not used to dealing with an American and an Italian that wanted to get married in Paris in the year of 1957.
I discovered in our chats that he had saved every letter my mother and he wrote in this time of their long distance courtship. He saved every letter his mother sent him. He saved his lists of wash sent home from University. He saved every cartoon and copies of many of the articles he wrote. We decided to go through all his material to organize it. For me it was like walking through time, discovering what was on my father´s mind and happening in his life at the time and with him there to explain and elaborate on pictures, drawings, stories and letters it all became real.
Sometimes things happen for a reason. I had just finished compiling an anthology for an adult learning course. It was a lot of work and of course I was doing it for free (which is something I cannot really afford, but who can nowadays). While we sorted through my Dad´s work I came upon familiar drawings of a pirate. He was called Captain Bucky and the drawings showed him golfing or skiing, things we normally don´t associate with pirates. But to my great surprise there were a lot more drawings of Bucky, which I had never seen and a story my father had written about the pirate. That´s when the pieces of the puzzle fell in place.
I had drawings. I had a story. I had an author and I had just learned how to create books. The idea was born and my father liked it. What a way to celebrate being over 80.
Soon the first print of “The Jolly Roger Twins – Pirates who fly Kites” will be produced. Little did I know there was a lot more learning to do, but throughout it all my Dad and I had a wonderful time creating his first book. And being 80 and suffering from makular degeneration, doesn´t stop him from making plans for the next one.
It will be called Roma Oma and Europa Opa.