I See My Father

Dominico Manna has my father’s eyes.

The other morning I was startled when my father’s eyes peered into mine.  He hadn’t made an appearance since my sighting of him in Belize.  That day he arrived in a big old Chrysler – driving right up the beach – got out of the car and looked up at me sitting on the balcony staring at the sea.

Dad's head shot for a State Senate Run.

He did that John Wayne gun shot with your pointer finger thing and told me to stop being a wimp and to get on the f’n plane.

Did I mention that he had been dead for three years?

Cripes, I thought, what had I done to have him stare me down in a public place – Bar Elimar in Pontelandolfo?  I gulped and pulled my eyes away to see if the image stayed.  It stayed. The face was smiling – it wasn’t my father’s face. But the eyes – they were his eyes.  My woo woo moment had kinda’ sorta’ passed. My cousin Dominico peered down at me.  Rats, those are my father’s eyes.  I just met Dominico Manna a week or so ago, but when my dad’s eyes looked back at me I felt like I’ve known this newly found cousin my whole life.  Dominico is my father’s second cousin just like my Guerrera cousins back in the USA – that makes him my third cousin or second cousin twice removes or…. Well it doesn’t really matter.  He has my father’s eyes.

Part of my fantasy living in Pontelandolfo for 6 months – besides writing a best selling memoir – HA – was uncovering more cousins.  Our family tree is full of all of the names that mark homes all over Pontelandolfo – Guerrera, Rinaldi, Fusco, Perugini, Mancini etc. etc. etc.  When I look at the family tree, I start thinking that I have at least one blood cell of every single person that I pass on the streets.

Every time I actually find someone with a clear direct link to my nonna and nonno, I get smacked in the face again with how much we are all alike.  What was that Haley Mills TV show about the cousins who looked so much alike they could pass for one another?  My USA family – starting with my incredibly talented sister and niece and branching out to second and third cousins – is full or actors, dancers, writers, photographers, artists and those who love the arts.


Hand Crafted by my cousin Carmella in Pontelandolfo!

Imagine my joy to discover that generations of our blood line here have danced in the towns international touring folklorico dance company, are incredible photographers, writers, visual artists etc.  Others, like me, are arts administrator types and help organize the towns events. Damn that artistic DNA!

I always remember my grandmother, Uncle Sal and Aunt Cat working their Flagtown land. Grandma taught me how to kill and pluck a chicken for dinner. Many here farm their land to produce incredibly tasting meats and vegetables. Gifts of home made cheeses and meats have graced my door.

We have family all over the world – the ones I know about are in
Argentina, Montreal, England, Spain and I can’t remember.  Jack and I will have to definitely take a trip to Argentina.

Passport 1

Our family members, when the village could no longer support them, took the risk and re-established themselves beyond the borders of Italy. Even though we had never met, live miles apart and in some cases don’t even know that parts of our blood line intersect we are the same. Hell I know this sounds like woo woo but maybe there is something about this DNA stuff.

Every market day, if I stay in one place I am sure to see more of my family. Sometimes I haven’t a clue what they are saying to me but it doesn’t matter. Other times they clearly share what is bothering them, who is driving them crazy or why today is an absolutely fabulous day. The connection that comes from sharing secrets makes me feel like I have been here my whole life. In reality I discovered this family of Pontelondolfesi a scant 18 years ago. 18 years of returning to the village of my grandparents has forged incredible bonds.

I have finally decided that this is where I want to live – it may be 6 months a year or full time. It was seeing my father’s eyes that put me over the decision making edge. Daddy visiting me through Dominico and telling me once again not to be chicken shit – life is too short.


When we get back to NJ the house will go on the market. Anyone want a farm house with a bocce court and mulberry trees?



10 thoughts on “I See My Father

  1. It was the “Parent Trap” a movie about cousins. Also the TV show was Patty Duke. Good for you to make this decision. I felt from many of your posts that this was were you were headed and your heart finally told you. See you soon!


    1. This one made me cry Midge. Remembering my youth brought back the song from the Patty Duke Show, “They laugh alike, the walk alike, at times they even talk alike, you could loose your mind. When cousins are two of a kind”. It will be nice to have a part of MY personal history living on this side of the pond. Welkom.


  2. Thoroughly enjoyed reading of your wonderful experience in Pontelandolfo. We traveled to Ireland in search of family. Unfortunately I was not successful as you were. There is something wonderful about finding that link between you and other human beings. You were so lucky to find that connection. Would love to read more about this trip and discovering your family.


  3. Hmmm….this is a bittersweet one. The thought of the “homestead” as dad called it…going on the market will mark the end of….well, that era. On the other hand, a whole new world is opening up. Still, it is sad.


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