I’m writing this sdraiata sul divano, laying down on the sofa, in the house that my wonderfully schizzinoso Massi decorated (and that my legendary mother-in-law gave her okay on of course). It’s a grey evening in Bergamo, Italy, my adopted home and I’ve just downed a family-size portion of my favourite pasta: linguine allo scoglio. Sometimes, I can’t decide whether I love the taste or just the way that the word “allo scoglio” rolls off the tongue. It’s delicious to say. In the background, the news reporter of TG5 is droning on and I fail to notice at times, that I’m listening and comprehending the news in one language while writing in another. It happens during my morning commute when I’m not longer cognisant that I’m listening to the ITALIAN radio, it’s just the radio. I’m not perfect, nor do I believe that anyone can really truly be in a second-language learned as an adult. But I would have never, in my wildest dreams thought I’d be here, half-a-world away from where I was born with an Italian husband and and Italian cat named Puffo. I adopted him, the cat, not the husband just to be clear, from the gattile (the cat pound), he had been abandoned at one day old, poverino, poor little thing. Puffo was actually named before he even existed. Early in my Italy adventures, I became obsessed with a unnaturally bright blue gelato flavour called Puffo, normally the choice of small children due to its color and the fact that Puffi is the Italian translation of Smurfs. I liked all this backstory on the name, plus the way that Puffo reminds me of something “puffy” or “fluffy”. And so here we are, a little family- a Canadian, an Italian, and a bilingual, bicultural cat, living the dream. Or is it?
I have worries for the future, it’s only natural. I worry for my Dad and how long it will be until a small speck turns up on a routine imaging exam. We have been too lucky, I think, three big surgeries and one round of radiation and three years later, clean scans across the board. But having studied cancer drugs and done my fourth-year pharmacy rotation at a cancer hospital, I know there’s always the possibility that despite all the interventions, one cell may have escaped and is now slowly, but steadily, setting up house somewhere in Dad’s fragile body. I worry for my Mom, who is my best friend in the whole world. I worry that she is lonely without me, that a mother’s hope when the doctor’s tell them “it’s a girl”, is that they will never be alone, they’ll always have their shopping, dinner, and a movie partner-in-crime. I worry for my aging grandparents because I know how time flies and health can change in a heartbeat. I worry for my little brother who is just finding his footing and who I’m sure would have loved a guiding hand from his only big sister. And finally, I worry about all the other friends and family I left behind and all the milestones, happy and sad, that I will inevitably miss in the future. I ask myself whether I can still be considered a friend if I’m absent from all these events- a wedding, a birthday, a birth, a loss…is it possible that I’ve been completely selfish to have dropped everything and everyone to follow my heart?
I have an inkling feeling that this is a question that I will never be able to answer. It will always be there, at the back of my mind as it is the eternal question for the millions of other people who leave home to work and live abroad. I have made plans to travel back “home” to Canada in the summer for Mom’s 60th birthday, a milestone that simply cannot be missed. Yet the strangest feeling always emerges when I’m with my friends and family in Canada. At some point during the trip, I start to feel homesick for Italy, for my life here, for my Italian friends and family. And in that moment of homesickness, I know in my heart of hearts, that there is no right or wrong choice, stay or go, neither is more honorable or courageous than the other. The only choice I made was to follow love which is the one thing that is indisputably worth fighting for and crossing oceans for. I try to remind myself that a parent’s greatest hope for their children is that they find happiness and I can say with complete conviction that I am irrevocably happy in Italy. However, if that parent happened to be an Asian immigrant, the becoming a doctor thing still trumps all. So I finally gave in and became one, but not in the way you think. In moving to Italy, I have the official right to the academic title “Dottoressa” because I graduated from university! In fact, Massi and I are both “doctors”! Talk about a bizarre twist of fate eh?
Update: unfortunately since I wrote this, my family has suffered the loss of my dad after a long fight with cancer and the sudden death of my grandpa. While I still grieve, their passings were a stark reminder to me that we should never take time for granted and thus, if you have a dream, somewhere you've always wanted to go or something you've always wanted to do, do it now. Don't wait.
...to be continued. Final Chapter coming soon.
This Sweet Life: Chapter Four
This Sweet Life: Chapter Three
This Sweet Life: Chapter Two
This Sweet Life: Chapter One
This Sweet Life: Prologue