His long, slender fingers were like those you would expect to see on the hands of an artist – not just any artist, but a maestro, perhaps Michelangelo. Or better still Picasso.
In his later years, he resembled Picasso and not just in looks – brazen and unafraid, through his deep-set milk chocolate eyes, he saw life that others could not or chose not to see. His face, like his hands, wore the etchings of a thousand hidden secrets and a life lived as master of his own ship. This man was my father.
As an adult, I finally ventured to ask him why he had not sat me on his knee as a child, nor played with me for hours like he did with other children; and why my first and only hug from him was on the day I was leaving home - never to return. He answered me, not with a callous word of indifference, but with the story of his life and experiences.
This story is retold in his honour, as he told it and as I remember it.
Famous for its incredible beauty, there is a place in Italy which today attracts tens of thousands of people every year. They come here to soak up the romance and history of this place. The air is fragrant with the tangy sweetness of orange and lemon blossoms, complemented surprisingly by the earthy smell of damp stone walls centuries old and freshly turned soil. A subdued volcano, 'Il Vesuvio' towers over this ancient Mediterranean landscape like a massive statue of a powerful God whose rich hillsides reach like enormous tree roots into the crystal azure bays. These shimmering bays reveal a spectacular coastline of unending bends which culminate in the enchanting and breath-taking views of 'La Costa Amalfitana'.
Legend has it, that the beautiful sirens inhabiting these waters would lure vessels towards shipwreck on the rocks of these bays. The sirens would drive the men wild, leading them to maddening and blind passion, then to drown them or petrify them for all eternity.
This is a place of music and magic. Above all, it is a place which mystery lures men and women back repeatedly like the thousands of writers, poets, philosophers, lovers, and connoisseurs of life who have delighted in her beauty and spell bound by a deep love affair which could only be experienced here.
This place of course, is Sorrento, Italy.
The words and the music of "Torna a Surriento" describe the splendour of this beautiful region and for some reason make my father cry every time he hears them. Maybe it is the lyrics or maybe it is the memories of his childhood or maybe it is because...
Look at the sea, it's so beautiful
it inspires such a strong feeling...
Just like you do to him who thinks of you,
you make him dream even awake!
Look, look at these gardens
smell these orange blossoms
A scent so fine
it goes straight to your heart
And you say "I'm leaving, goodbye!"
you get far from this heart...
from the land of love,
do you really not feel like coming back?
But don't leave me,
don't give me such a pain...
Come back to Sorrento:
let me live!
Sorrento, near Naples, was where my father was born. Not where he has lived but where he 'will' be buried. Not so much because he loves this place, but because, ironically, he needs to settle a long overdue score with an uncle who did him wrong sixty years ago.