My father, like my mother, died in 2016. My father died nine months after my mother passed. Again, I had not seen or spoken with him since. I had spoken to my mother, so, I thought it would also be valuable to speak with Pietro. 

Pietro: Oh, Joe, look at you. A little older, a lot greyer, how are you? It’s been so long. 

Joe: You know I can’t see you? 

P: Who do you want to see? I can be anyone you want. 

J: Can I just say, your English has improved. Better than you’re Italian. 

P: Oh, right, so you’re hearing English?  

J: Yes. 

P: Do I have a British accent?  

J: No, you sound a bit like me. 

P: (My dad farts and laughs) Did that sound English? 

J: No, that has a universal language of its own. 

P: Oh, okay, well what did you want to talk about? Sorry, I can’t stop looking at you. You look like …. 

J: I see both you and mum every time I look in the mirror.  

P: It must be why you look so handsome. 

J: Can I continue? 

P: Sure. 

J: I always wanted to say how sorry I am for not being there when you passed away. I remember getting a phone call from Angelo (who was not there either). I remember coming into the hospital, and there you were, lying on a gurney, in the corner of the room, against a wall, with a blanket over you. Alone. Dead, Awful. 

P: Oh, well, no one chooses when to die, it just ends.  

(Long silence) 

J: You don’t think suicides choose when to die? 

P: Do you really think one who selects suicide really wants to die? Do you think it’s their choice to take their life? That nothing else contributes to their decision? 

J: Did you ever think of taking your own life? 

P: No. Never. 

J: I would say mum had those thoughts. 

(Long silence) 

P: Your mother was the best thing that ever happened to me. If I was the cause of those thoughts, then I am sorry. She was never a problem. I thought I was. I thought she was always too good for me. Far smarter than me. 

J: But why did you leave the family to come out to Australia? I am sure you knew in your heart you were never coming back to Sicily. I remember you even saying to me “nothing would have made me go back.” 

(Long silence) 

J: Was it just mum’s family? 

P: Well, we got to the deep end pretty quickly. (A long intake of breath) You have no idea what they were like. I was treated like some …. a …. fool. Living with your Grandmother, in her house, a slave to her wants. “Pietro, don’t touch Angelo.” “Pietro, let him stay up for a little while longer.” “Stop disciplining him so.” Fuck her. I wasn’t going back to that. I was a man emasculated and castrated by that family. I wanted to show those fuckers. 

J: Mum knew this? 

P: Why do you think after 10 years of marriage there was only Angelo? We fought a lot about this. No matter how hard I worked, how hard I slaved, nothing I did was good enough for them. 

J: Wow, you had that bottled up for a while. 

P: Yes. I thought about it for a long time and finally decided to find my own way; go out to Australia. I had relatives out there. You know them. They took me in. They gave me work and looked after me. I owed them so much. 

J: But you left your family. 

P: I gave your mother a choice. You don’t know this do you? 

J: It doesn’t sound good though. 

P; Well, I gave her a choice. She could stay in Sicily if she wanted. By this stage, I had two sons. One I had never seen. And as you know, things had not gone as well as expected. I did not find “Ameriga” in Australia. 


P: Look, I am so blessed your mother decided to come out. I know it was against her family’s wishes. I don’t know what I would have done if she had wanted to stay. Or what would have happened to you two. 

J: Angelo would probably be Pope. 

P: (laughs) As Pope he would have had to forgive me. Imagine that. He would say to his father “I forgive you, my son”. And I would reply “Thank you, Father.” 

J: (Sarcastically) Hilarious. 

P: Well, I think it’s funny. 

J: Were you planning to have another family in Australia if we had not come over? 

P: You’ve asked me this before. It must really bother you. No, I never did. Never. I loved your mother. I may not have been the best father; I know I was absent a lot, working 6 or 7 days a week. But I also loved you and your brother. 

(Silence. I hear him breathing heavily) 

P: I know it affected Angelo who had a terrible time in the beginning, but what was the alternative? What would have become of both of you if we had stayed in Sicily? Eventually, you both would have left. I know Angelo doesn’t think very highly of my decision, but if I had come back, a loser in the eyes of your mother’s family, would he have the life he has now? 

J: Come on, no one knows. We can all find reasons that will rationalise any action we take. No one knows what could have happened. You’ve heard of “sliding door” moments?  

P: Yes, and it’s all bullshit. All bullshit. Do you want to go back and try the alternative? Well, you can’t. I can’t go back. 

J: Okay, okay. Let me change the subject. Are you enjoying your time in … wherever you are? Do you see mum? Do you see your cousins? Do you eat? Is there food? Are there always warm days and warm baths that last an … an… eternity (I suppose I can say that)? I just thought about my last question, do you even have a body to bathe? 

P: You really want answers to those questions? What do you think this is, just an endless episode of the Kardashians? 

J: You have the Kardashians there? 

P: Please. Let me just say one last thing before our time ends. I consider myself fortunate to have loved your mother and thankful for the children we had together. If I did wrong, or I failed, then I apologise. I did my best in the very short time I had. We all have regrets, they are one of the few things we take with us no matter where we are. 

J: (a little surprised by the serious tone the interview has taken) One last thing; can I tell you my favourite joke of yours? You shared it with me while driving up to Korumburra, with mum.  

P: Sure. Which one is it? 

J: It’s the one about the guy who dies and goes to heaven. He finds out his best friend, who died a few years before, is not up above, but down below, in hell. And after a lot of pleading, the newbie is granted permission to visit hell and see his best friend. 

You know the one? Hello?  

(Silence … I continue) 

Well, he finds his friend in a spa bath filled with big-breasted women. These women are beautiful and they are naked …

You there, Dad? 

... And he says “My friend, I thought this was hell. I don’t believe it. How is this …”  

“Believe it,” says his best friend as he stands showing his naked body “this is the worst kind of hell.” …

(Listening for any noise) Dad, you there? …

His naked body reveals he has a soft, flat patch where his penis should be. No penis. Beautiful, doll-like women are trying to get him back into the spa.  

“This … is … the … worst … kind … of … hell.” 

(I laugh) I love that joke. Do you remember telling me that joke? So long ago. 

(Silence) Dad? … 


Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash