So far the paternal visit is going well. The only person he’s managed to fall out with is his sister, my aunt, by teasing her relentlessly about her capacity to exaggerate the merits or otherwise of a particular kind of rice/pasta/vegetable. She took her revenge by heading off for the day with my uncle and not coming home again until after midnight, waking me up in the process, so actually the only person who suffered was me. My father seemed unphased by her stomping off and much to my amazement agreed to go on a short outing with my mother and all three children. This is the fist time the children have been out with my parents and I was quite moved by the whole idea of it. They came back happy and smiling, my father described it all as a wonderful piece of theatre. But he refused to let them call him grandpa, preferring “uncle”. My father and aunt are obsessed with their age and although they are both closer to 100 than 50, act and look closer to the latter. Actually at times they act closer to five than 50.
Once the children had gone to bed my parents and I (that sounds so weird, this must be only one of a handful of occasions I have seen them together after they separated, rather like getting used to saying my husband when you’ve only been married a few days) sat around chatting about old friends and telling anecdotes about Truman Capote and Marylin Monroe – really lovely. I wonder how my life would have turned out if they’d stayed together. I suppose he’d have made me call him uncle too – as it is I call him by his first name, Benedetto. By the time we met up again when I was a teenager so daddy seemed inappropriate. My middle daughter, Beatrice pictured below, has gone one step further and calls him by his full name. “Benedetto Benedetti is up,” she announces every morning when she sees him shuffle past our bedroom. “Boungiorno Benedetto Benedetti,” she shouts. Most of the time he doesn’t hear her. He can deny being a grandparent but deafness is one sign of age it’s difficult to hide.