Part Six – The Future?
Writing my story down and sharing it with you is a humbling reminder of how I ended up here in Italy and that everything happens for a reason.
My decision to study abroad in Spain in 2005, for example, happened for a reason.
Although I could have never known it at the time, Spain wasn’t just an opportunity to learn a foreign language and travel; it was the ticket to my future. The most important decision of my life was, in fact, to study abroad in Spain…and to think of how different things would have turned out should I have been too afraid to go (which I almost was).
I wouldn’t have met Letizia, who wouldn’t have invited me to stay with her years later, who wouldn’t have introduced me to Francesco, who wouldn’t have…
I actually doubted that I was even capable of going to Spain in the first place. My lack of self-confidence and a shy disposition had limited me in so many ways when I was growing up, but in the end, I did muster up the courage to go and obviously, there was a very good reason that I did!
His name is Francesco.
Everything Happens For A Reason
Many things in life happen for many different reasons, whether they are good or bad.
There was a reason on my drive home the other night, for example, that I decided to go straight at the stoplight and not turn right. At the very last second I ended up changing my course, and this seemingly simple decision ended up resulting in a very dramatic evening for me.
December 23rd: two days before Christmas. There were a few last minute gifts that I needed to pick up, so I hopped in the car and drove the short distance to the town center.
After having waited in line to have some coffee beans ground, I paid for my merchandise and walked back to the car.
I waited for traffic to pass so that I could back out and then join the line of cars heading down the one-way street, and once I did, I found myself behind a rather slow Fiat 500 that was putting a damper on my plans to purchase some special Christmas wine.
We curved around the block and up ahead at the stoplight, the Fiat was deciding whether or not to turn left or go straight.
It decided to turn left and the blinker started flashing.
I was thinking more about the vino and which way would be quicker for me to arrive (turning left and following the Fiat was the most logical route), but since it was moving so slow and I just didn’t feel like waiting, I decided to go straight instead.
The route was longer that way, but I didn’t care. I was sick of being cooped up at home in front of the computer all day.
In the distance, I noticed that the railroad crossing was closed due to a train passing, and realized that the route would require an extra detour now.
The stoplight turned green and I started across the intersection.
A man on a bicycle was to my right so I scooted around him, accelerated and then came to an abrupt halt just on the other side of the intersection when I saw what was laying in the middle of the road in the opposite lane of traffic.
There in the turn lane was an orange and white tabby cat, immobile and petrified after just being struck by a car.
I didn’t see who hit him or what had happened, but I halted my car in the middle of traffic and got out to see what I could do.
Another girl, who was stopped and facing the opposite direction, had also gotten out and decided that she should move him out of the way. She thought that he was only startled, but I was sure that it was much worse than that.
I should have told her to leave him there in case of internal injuries, but it was too late. She moved him toward the curb and as she set him down, she gasped in horror as she realized that his leg was broken.
It was at this moment that I could have called the Pet Ambulance. Friuli is fortunate enough to have one on hand for such emergencies (and I encourage you to read about them in the post Animal Friendly Friuli), but seeing that I was so close to my regular pet clinic for Cookie and the girl had already moved him, I scooped up the kitty and told the girl to open the back door of the car.
“Lo porterò in clinica!” I told her.
I’ll take him to the clinic!
She fussed with the locked door and I had to try and calmly tell her which button she needed to push in order to unlock it. She was also quite shaken and wanted to help.
I have a U-shaped dog blanket in the back seat that prevents Cookie from flying to the floor if I ever need to break quickly, so I gingerly laid the little kitty down, his limp body fighting for life as his injuries slowly started to show their severity.
I rushed to the clinic, jumped out of the car and flung open the main door. There is a big “Suonare in caso di Emergenza” (Ring for Emergency) bell that I had looked at many other times as I waited patiently for my appointment, and this time I had to push it as I knocked frantically on the little door that separated the waiting room from the patient rooms.
A clinic nurse came out and I yelled, “Un gatto è stato investito!”
A cat has been run over!
I heard a young lady in the waiting area gasp as she watched the scene unfold. Later I saw that she was there with her own cat and was probably distressed as she watched me fly through the door in a panic.
Two nurses came out to the car with a flat board and took the cat inside.
I waited a few minutes as other people in the lobby asked what had happened.
Somebody hit the cat…I don’t know who but he was still alive and I just reacted…
The nurse soon called me into the room where she said that sadly, the cat did not survive.
He had probably suffered terrible internal injuries and even though I had tried my best, he was beyond help even when I found him.
I was quite upset and shaken, and on top of this, they had to let me know that since I brought him in, I would have to pay the cremation fee.
I was a bit frustrated that I was responsible for the fee since I was not even involved in the cat’s death, but even if I had known about it beforehand, I wouldn’t have done a thing differently.
I asked them to scan the cat for a microchip in case we could contact someone or to see if at least the owner would cover the fee, but she said that owners rarely put microchips in cats.
This was even more frustrating to me, seeing that it costs so little to put a chip in. The cat also had a collar, which meant that he was obviously loved by someone.
She scanned him but there was no chip present.
I frustratingly paid the €60 cremation fee, opened the door to the lobby and looked at the girl who had gasped earlier when I came rushing in.
“Mi raccomando…metti un microchip al gatto.”
Be sure you put a microchip in your cat.
I left the clinic with a sunken heart and the adrenaline still rushing through my veins.
Based on the exact time of day that I had decided to get in my car, the exact amount of time it took me to wait for my coffee to be ground, the slow Fiat who had gotten in front of me as I drove and my split-second decision to go straight at the stoplight rather than turn left…had all added up to that one moment.
It could have been any other person to pass by the scene and stop, I suppose, but it was me that evening.
I think it was me because I was willing to stop and take action rather than drive on by while looking in the rearview mirror and thinking, “Poor kitty”.
Everything happens for a reason, doesn’t it?
Moving back to the story and Francesco’s departure after Christmas from Part 5, I can’t honestly remember today how I felt about things back in 2011.
I think a part of me knew without a doubt that we would end up together, yet the other part of me still had doubts since nothing had been decided while he was visiting.
I went back to work at the parking lot and driving the shuttle bus and Francesco went back to work in Italy.
So what next?
I have to admit that I had to refer to some old emails we exchanged from a few years back in order to refresh my memory, and after reading through them today, I realized that I made a HUGE mistake in Part 5 of this story!
It was not before Christmas that I moved in with my grandma, it was after Christmas.
Those of you who read the old version of Part 5 will remember that I mentioned moving in with my grandma to help her out, so I have moved that part of the story here.
My grandma lived on the other side of town, about 15-20 minutes away from my parent’s house, and she was getting up there in years. She lived alone and wasn’t able to care for herself as well as she used to, which left us all feeling constantly worried about her.
It worked out quite well for me in terms of employment, too. My boss knew that I wanted to pick up some extra hours, so he asked if I would be interested in driving the shuttle bus from the airport in addition to working as a parking lot attendant. Grandma’s house was much closer to the airport, so it worked out splendidly for me.
I’m shocked at the amount of emails that Francesco and I wrote to one another, not to mention all of the Skype calls and Facebook comments here and there!
One in particular that I was reading today was dated January 11th, 2011.
This was the email where I mentioned to him that my grandma had asked me to live with her and, as I continued reading, I couldn’t believe what I had written to him next.
The answer to the question I posed him would determine what I would do on January 12th:
“Ti chiedo un favore, France? Ti confesso che non sono 100% sicura che se torno in marzo, hai scelto la soluzione per me restare con te senza avere il problemma di ripartire dopo 90 giorni. So che è la cosa che vuoi (che io resti), e che io voglio, ma non è ancora chiaro né sicuro a me. Allora…ti chiedo solo a dirmi quando hai trovato la soluzione, quando hai fatto la decisione, che posso restare.”
Whether it is free of errors or full of errors, this was the original part of the message that I wrote to him in Italian, which translates to:
“Can I ask you a favor, Francesco? I must confess that I am not 100% sure if I return in March that you have chosen a solution for me to stay with you for more than 90 days. I know that this is what you want (that I stay with you) and that I want, too, but it is not yet clear to me. So…I only ask that you tell me when you have found the solution, when you have made the decision, that I can stay.”
I went on to explain that I didn’t need him to ask me anything via Skype or email, but I did want to know what his intentions were so that I could start planning accordingly.
I think his answer was quite clear:
“Quello che voglio fare è passare il resto della mia vita con te…”
What I want is to spend the rest of my life with you.
And that was a good enough for me. 🙂
Before asking me, I let Francesco know that he had to ask my parents first.
It wasn’t really the right opportunity when he was there visiting at Christmas since everything was new and they had all just met him, so what do you do when you can’t fly to the US and back again in a day in order to ask a girl’s parents for her hand in marriage?
You email them.
By the 25th of January, he had written to them.
“Your perents answare at my email.. 🙂 Maybe we have a meeting in this week-end by Skype.”
In the meantime, I had already started to look into the paperwork and documents that I would need to get married in Italy.
It was complicated, I screwed up a lot of things and it was frustrating, but that’s to be expected when you are dealing with Italy!
I must admit that it was all rather strange to be planning a wedding when we were not even engaged, but then again, had anything ever been “normal” for us since we had first met?
I knew that my parents would be thrilled, as would my friends who had been kept up-to-date about every single detail as the events unfolded, but for some reason, I was quite unsure of how to tell my siblings.
How was I supposed to tell them that I would be leaving for Italy and never coming back when I wasn’t even engaged yet?
It sounded quite absurd to say it aloud, but of course, I had to tell them.
I remember calling each sibling up one by one (I have three siblings) and letting them know what our intensions were.
I’m sure it was quite strange for them and I remember that after having told my oldest sister, who seemed quite unsure of the whole situation, there was a long pause where I didn’t say anything at all.
“Are you still there?” she asked.
“Yes. I’m crying.” I said.
It was extremely hard to tell them, probably because I felt like I would be leaving them forever; abandoning them.
I’ve always been the wildcard in the family. I didn’t just leave the nest, I sailed right on out of it and flew more than halfway around the globe. While my adventures had always ended up back in the U.S. and close enough to stop by for a visit or pick up the phone without waiting for nine hours until the time difference caught up with us, this time would be different.
This time, the plan was to stay in Italy. Permanently.
La Testimone and The Dress
One person who I had kept especially up to date about all of our plans and intentions was none other than our Italian cupid: Letizia.
She was more than thrilled that Francesco and I had serious intentions to get married, and when I asked her to be my testimone (or “witness”), she was ecstatic.
Italians don’t have the traditional bridesmaids like we do in the U.S., so you could say that la testimone would be equivalent to the maid of honor.
She was our cupid and there was no better person for this job than Letizia.
I kept her informed about our progress and even went out to look at wedding dresses.
I must admit that this was strange, too.
Every boutique wanted to know when the date was (Well, we haven’t chosen a date.), which wasn’t exactly true since he hadn’t even asked. I wasn’t prepared to answer all of the questions that they typically ask you about your wedding details.
“Where are you getting married?”
Cluck, cluck, cluck! went the hens!
Then I had cornered myself into explaining the situation, which took too long and was too complicated, so by the time I got to the third place, I knew to keep the details vague.
I didn’t end up finding a dress that I liked and decided to wait for something better in Italy.
We had, at least, chosen a departure date for me, which would be March 18th.
From January until March, I continued working and paying down my student loans, spending time with grandma, family and friends, and preparing myself for a future in Italy.
I hanged up my parking lot attendant hat and handed over the shuttle bus keys.
I had drinks with friends and decided which things I would take with me to Italy and which things would stay behind.
And then the day finally came to leave the U.S…
Boarding an airplane has never been so bittersweet.
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