The other day Theresa asked me what her dad’s favorite song was for a new tattoo she is designing. Of course, being who he was, “Born to be Wild” by Steppenwolf was the immediate choice, but I knew, undoubtedly, that if there was a second one it would be a song, its exact polar opposite, Con te Partiro. Without a doubt it was his second favorite song of all time.

When I went to Sicily on an PhotoJournalism trip in 1998, I brought back a CD by Andrea Bocelli, who was not well known in the US, but on the tour bus the director played it every day. I, along with my much younger classmates, fell in love with it, and on the last day she gave us each a gift bag that included his CD.

Although Michael’s heritage was 100 percent Italian and Italian was spoken in his house as he was growing up, his grandparents (as many who came here in the early 1900s) were of the belief that to be truly Americanized you had to speak English and English only (his grandmother had a great deal of trouble with English so she spoke only Italian, but she died right before or after he was born. But many times they still spoke Italian, but did not allow him to learn it).

Before I met Michael, I traveled to Italy and learned Italian well enough to get around by myself. I also went to school and took a year of Intensive Italian. I loved it and when we traveled to Italy on our honeymoon, I was quite comfortable speaking it. But he looked Italian and the Italians would direct their questions/comments to him. He had no clue what they were saying, so I would answer and then they would respond (again) by looking at him (apparently they just wanted to speak to him, not nutty blond lady with American accent).

This all would have been fine and well with me if he spoke Italian, but he did not. I didn’t tell them that and neither did he. He would look at them and then with me with a bemused look on his face. When they left he would say, “So..what was that all about?” I would say things like, “It was about we’re on the wrong train and we’re going to Switzerland, not to Naples.” His face would drop for a minute and then he’d realize I was screwing with him. Other times I would say, “If you want to know, learn the language!”

The only Italian he knew was “insalata di mare” (seafood salad) which he wanted everywhere we went. I had to think quickly when he nearly ran over a Carabinieri holding a machine gun who was so startled, it was amazing he didn’t just shoot us. Michael drove through alleys, pedestrian plazas etc and fell in love with his ancestral country. Until he met me, he had no interest in visiting it. I think his grandfather and his mother wanted him “Americanized” and never talked that much about Italy. Also, his maternal grandparents survived the seaquake that wiped out Messina and fled shortly thereafter, I don’t think they enjoyed “wonderful” memories of the old country. But he never expected to love it as he did and to feel as “at home” there as he did.

We were going to visit Messina upon our return. In Sicily you can tell people there your last name and they will bring you to your relatives. A few people of Sicilian descent did it on our trip on one of our off days. Michael planned to do that someday. Because he was a pack rat, we had a lot of information about where his family lived in Messina. I took a photo of Messina through a fence but wouldn’t go into the town. I just wanted to go, the first time, with him. I did take a photo of big sign outside a shop that said Parisi which was his mother’s maiden name. In Naples and surrounding towns, we saw many sign with DiCarlo, DeCarlo, DaCarlo D’Carlo although the Italian spelling is with the small d (meaning “of”). So we had been to his father’s family’s part of the country and he wanted to visit his mother’s part, as he grew up with her family.

Our plans for 2011 were to revisit Italy for a month from Sicily to Venice. We had been there for 10 days for our honeymoon and it seemed like 2 days. Looking up the Parisis in Messina was a goal of his. Of course, he never made it back.

When I brought the Bocelli CD home from Italy, I didn’t know what he’d think but I played it in the car all the time, and he loved it.
Michael being Michael, he didn’t gush but would say, “Put on that Italian music,” somewhat as an aside, when we were driving along. He didn’t understand a word but eventually told me that he really liked it.

In particular, he loved Con te Partiro and asked me what it meant and I said it was about going to other places (countries) with your love and he said that was our song as I brought him to Italy, a place he never dreamed of going before he met me. He had no interest in the land of his ancestors but loved it so very much and that I had brought him there. I also took him all over this country. He was never into traveling before he met me and then I had him traveling all over the place. But Con te Partiro was the most popular song on the CD and one our “our” songs. And we talked about going to other countries and where we would “sail” to at some point in the future.

Whenever Bocelli was on PBS, Michael would call me me, “Hey hon, Bocelli is on, come watch him with me.” Even though we had the DVDs (or VHSs) we watched “A Night in Tuscany” over and over, and our dream was to see Bocelli in Italy…a dream I was sure would come true…it didn’t and wouldn’t. But we both believed it would.

Yet, I was surprised and amazed when he bought tickets to Andrea Bocelli. Never a fan of live music and not someone who was good with figuring out how to buy tickets or anything like that, he wanted good seats and could not get them in New York or Boston, so he found them in Albany, New York. For Michael, it was like moving mountains. I have no idea how he figured it out, but he did and we had great seats a wonderful dinner before then and a romantic walk back to the hotel which included a gorgeous moon.

We went there and almost every person in the audience was Italian and most license plates were from New Jersey (Bocelli had hit the Sopranos by then). Everyone was in a suit and I wore a long dress (not quite evening gown but close) and Michael wore a suit witout even being prompted by me or with any complaining. He was happy to be among (mostly) “his” people.

Andrea came out and his singing was amazing, of course, and we loved him and held hands throughout the performance.

Toward the end of the night, we heard the notes to Con te Partiro and as the song played Michael put his right arm around my shoulder and the other around my waist and buried his face in my arm and said, “I love you so much.”

This is one of the versions of the song that I’m particularly fond of and the translation in English follows. I can’t listen to it without crying, yet it made me so happy when he was here.

We believed it would happen…and it still reminds me of him…how open he was to experiences and trusted me to show him new things and bring him places. This was our special song:

(Plays better in full screen mode)

English Translation

When I’m alone
I dream on the horizon
and words fail;
yes, I know there is no light
in a room where the sun is absent,
if you are not with me, with me.

At the windows
show everyone my heart
which you set alight;
enclose within me
the light you
encountered on the street.

Time to say goodbye
to countries I never
saw and shared with you,
now, yes, I shall experience them.

I’ll go with you
on ships across seas
which, I know,
no, no, exist no longer.
It’s time to say goodbye…

When you are far away
I dream on the horizon
And words fail,
and, Yes, I know
that you are with me;
you, my moon, are here with me,
my sun, you are here with me,
with me, with me, with me.

Time to say goodbye
To countries I never
Saw and shared with you,
now, yes, I shall experience them.
I’ll go with you
On ships across seas
which, I know,
no, no, exist no longer,

with you I shall experience them again.
I’ll go with you
On ships across seas
Which, I know,
No, no, exist no longer;
with you I shall experience them again.
I’ll go with you,
I with you.