Yesterday, an elderly woman across the street died. It's a small town, and many of the people are older and elderly. Just about every other day the church bells start that crazy, angry clanging to announce the departure of one of their own.
I was sitting in the courtyard writing. The door to the street was open and I saw three or four of the neighbouring women hurrying toward her house. I knew it had to be bad.
The last time I saw the deceased, Carmela Lizzi, was last week. Usually, her door stayed tightly shut. But that day it was open. She sat in a wheelchair inside her courtyard waiting to be led out. Her caretaker stood beside her. Her children, I'm told, live and work elsewhere. They'd hired someone, an Albanian immigrant, to look after her.
A few drops of rain had already come down, and the sky was darkening. The caretaker stepped out on the street, arms crossed at her chest, looking gloomily toward the sky. She turned to look at the old woman and shook her head.
"I want to go to the piazza," the old woman begged. But the caretaker only shook her head again. "It's going to rain," she explained and they went back inside, the old woman on the verge of tears. The piazza is where all the old people gather in the evening. She was desperate for the company of her friends.
Today, Maria, another of my neighbours, told me Signora Lizzi often sat alone in the shade of her courtyard watching and waiting for people to go by. She'd wave to them and invite them in, Maria said, wanting to chat.
"So sad," Maria said, clutching her toddler son. "A caretaker isn't family, is she?"
And then I called my own mother, who is unwell while I'm so far away across an ocean. She immediately launched into a host of complaints, which reassured me in an odd way. But before I hung up she wanted to know when I'm coming home.
Mourners begin to gather at the home of the deceased, Carmela Lezzi