October 2, 2009

My Friend Renato



Renato and I met in a poetry class ten years ago. He invited me over for lunch to discuss poetry, and that's how our friendship continued-- always with food and wine at his dining room table overlooking Lake Merritt in Oakland.

He was my friend through divorce ("that man is a fool," he'd say in his thick Italian accent), graduate school, single parenthood, a new marriage, and a new baby. I met his family, grieved with him when he lost his wife, cheered for him when his book was published in Italy.

I planned to visit Renato when I was in California last February, and I ran out of time. He emailed to say that he made pizza all week in anticipation of my arrival, but not to worry because his granddaughter helped him gobble it up.

I didn't want to miss seeing Renato on my September trip and emailed to make a date. When I didn't hear back from him, I called. When I still didn't hear anything, I thought maybe he'd gone visiting. I returned to Massachusetts disappointed that I missed one of his delicious meals (always served in many courses) and the chance to tear apart each other's poetry.

Last night Renato's daughter returned my phone call. She said that Renato passed away in early September, just five days after he'd emailed me a poem and asked for my critique. I hadn't written him back. I thought I'd had more time.

I don't know how many times Death has taught me that there isn't always more time-- Renato always said, "I'm not going to live forever; check the obituaries before coming to visit." The lesson never seems to stick. I guess that's the downfall of optimism; I refuse to ever believe I'm kissing a friend's cheek for the last time.

But here's the other thing about optimism: I don't know where or how or when, but I'm sure that one day Renato and I will sit down with a glass of wine in the afternoon sunlight and read each other's poems again.

He sent me this one last March, and it's one of my favorites.

SOTTOVOCE
"Babin!" "Trillo!"
From the window on the courtyard side,
Mom, laying her cheek on the pillow
of her hands palm to palm,
was calling us in for the afternoon nap.
You and I, engrossed in the game
of five marble, couldn't hear her calling.
"Babin"
But today, though it was so faint a call
that only you could hear, you heeded it;
and, maybe eager for sleep, you dropped
the marbles and heeded Mom's summon.
"Trillo"
Soon, I, too, no matter how sottovoce,
shall hear the call; and, the five marble
dropped, will cede to the promise
of her hands.
Renato Gasparetti

5 comments:

My Little Cuties said...

Iremember feeling the same way when my former boss and friend passed away last year. I was holding on to the hope that she'd make it back home for one more visit but it was not to be. I really miss her e-mails.

Suzanne said...

Oh dear Trish, I am so sorry. Thank you for sharing Renato's poem.

Anonymous said...

I'm just going to stop trying to find the words and be sad for a bit. I am so, so sorry for your loss. fmf

Dear John, said...

Um, hi. I don't know if this sounds kind of crazy but I'm one of Renato's granddaughters, Charlotte, I was probably the one who ate all the pizza that day, because I always did. He was the greatest joy in my life. Sometimes I search him on the internet, as some sort of weird comfort thing I do, and I came across your post here.
Thank you so much for saying these things about him. It made me really happy. Any friend of his is a friend of mine. Anyways I couldn't let this post pass me by without saying something. Mainly just thanks. Thanks for being his friend. For reading his poetry. For sharing yours with him. For writing and eating and talking with him. And for commemorating him.

Patricia Caspers said...

Hi Charlotte, of course I remember you! I remember you dancing around the living room with my daughter one time when we visited. Renato always spoke so highly of you. I think about him often, and sometimes I Google his name, too. I wish I could read Italian. I feel so lucky to have had him in my life for a while, and I've never known anyone like him.

Thank you for reaching out,
Tricia