Adelaide … with an A
and Joe’s destiny
Klamath Falls, Oregon – 24 October 2002
At that dinner not so many years ago, when I met you I thought your name was “Delaide" and that’s how I continued to address you for most of the evening. But since I kept making that mistake, at a certain point you leaned over and whispered, almost distractedly so no one would notice:
“Adelaide … with an A”.
We’ve seen each other several times since then, but unfortunately nearly always on sad occasions for your family. I stood off to one side, which is the polite thing to do when you are participating in someone else’s grief, in pain that does not touch you directly. So you have no choice but to stand there, looking a bit stupid and not knowing what to say or do. I remember that you made a gesture full of resignation and dignity, lifting your glasses to dab your eyes with a handkerchief to hide your tears. And after heaving a big sigh, you said:
“What can we can do? … That’s life.”
Invariably, after the “litany” of duties that follow certain days you wish would never arrive, your family – which is so big that you yourselves get lost in the tangle of relations and the plethora of surnames – would organize something, almost as if you wanted to exorcise death. A dinner, a lunch or whatever, where all of you would be on one side, with your memories and your stories about the past, while the rest of us “in-laws”, as your husband jokingly referred to himself, a few others and me, would be on the other.
Joe’s destiny was what his father had dreamed of, but his path was different, as it should have been. In all likelihood, if he had been a model student with a good college degree, he would have followed in his father’s footsteps of political failures and would now be muddling along with minor lawsuits over condominium problems and traffic accidents.
My dear friend, my dear “Adelaide with an A”, it does not comfort me to know that you will read this letter and the rest of them before anyone else. I’ll miss your comments, I’ll miss you as an unerring reader and I’ll miss you because one feels the loss of people even if you met them merely by chance. But you were absolutely right: “What can we do?… That’s life.”