giovedì 27 luglio 2017

In memoriam CARMINE TRUBIANO

Dear friends, 

A year ago today, I lost one of my dearest friends of my entire life, CARMINE TRUBIANO.  His profile could have been on an Ancient Roman coin – and his life-style bore some similarities, as well!  A man such as him you don't replace – you remember, and you mourn.

The following is the eulogy that I had the great honor of giving at his funeral.


I'm not going to stand here and tell you what a wonderful person Carmine was. If you didn't already know him and think that, you wouldn't be here right now. And I'm so happy that you did know him, because if you didn't, if you had never met him, how can I possibly begin to describe him? In my whole life, I can't think of anyone who was like him. And that is what makes this so hard. There's no one to replace him with.
There's no way to express who he was in a five-minute eulogy. So I'm going to share only a couple of personal memories.
I first met Carmine almost 25 years ago, when he was the manager at Filippo's Restaurant, which I used to visit frequently. We became fast friends. I called him “fratellino”, which means little brother, and he called me “fratellone”, which means big brother. This was very comical, both in terms of our ages and our sizes – although regarding the latter, as you can see I am catching up fast.
I have to tell you what an event it was, in those days, to visit him and his dear, unforgettable mother. At the time I was living in Revere, and I didn't drive. Even if I did drive, this was before the days of the Ted Williams Tunnel. So to visit 50 Washington Ave., either by train or by car, was something of a journey. Once, I showed up uninvited. Absolutely uninvited – he had no idea I was coming. With no surprise in his voice at all, he said, “Uhé, fratellone.” Within 60 seconds, I was seated at the table and there was food in front of me. From the fridge he pulls out a dish of hamburgers, made not from beef but from the meat of a deer that he himself had shot with Luigi Andreassi. While I'm eating that, he starts boiling some water for the pasta. Then he goes to the cupboard and pulls out a can of tomatoes. And as the sauce is cooking he goes to his freezer and pulls out a whole truffle, from which he shaves one tiny sliver into the sauce. And when the sauce is almost done, he goes to his freezer and pulls out a bag of homemade triangular maltagliati. And so the meal went. Later, when I moved in Natick, suddenly the long journey was only a five-minute car ride. And when he would call me and invite me over for quote-unquote “leftovers,” can you imagine how fast I drove over there?
One thing that struck me about Carmine was that he was utterly unjudgmental. He let people be whoever they were going to be. With one notable exception. He could not abide any sort of snobbery or pretension. He hated snobs so much that sometimes I think he downplayed his own education and culture and played the part of the peasant. This way, the snobs would be repelled, and then he could hang out with the people that he actually liked. With me, there was no pretension, and we had many long conversations about literature and art and every aspect of Italian culture. And by the way, he really could read and write Latin.
But there was a reason why he hated snobbery, and it's very important that I tell you. When I used to work at the mall, I used to see these rich, bored housewives come in and giddily buy a cast-iron pan that was recommended by their cooking instructor. Well, the Italians were using those pans 150 years ago. And stop to think for a moment that the peasants of those times, who couldn't even read or write, would once a year kill a pig, and with that pig would make the pancetta and the guanciale and the sausages, and they knew how to preserve everything perfectly, without any of the meat going bad, and the family would eat this meat for a whole year. You could go to Harvard Medical School for 25 years and not learn how to do all of that. Carmine did have a great intellectual curiosity. If he didn’t he wouldn’t have studied in Rome and France and gotten his Bachelors and Masters at BU and studied for his doctorate at Middlebury College. At the same time, he knew full well what real culture was.
This is why, without making a big deal of it, Carmine would teach us friends certain traditions that even in Italy are disappearing. This was another aspect of Carmine that not many people understood. If even in Italy people go to the store to buy sausages, why would he go through the trouble of inviting friends over for a sausage-making party? But this is exactly what occurred one unforgettable day about 15 years ago. There were five of us: Carmine, his cousin Cesidio from Italy, his cousin Carmine from Canada, Tony Onorato, and myself. There we were, in the basement of 50 Washington Ave., and on the table before us was 60 pounds of ground pork. “I usually make only 50 pounds,” Carmine explained. And he washed each casing by hand. And he measured the ground pepper carefully. And we made 60 pounds of sausages, our toil alleviated by gallons of Luigi’s homemade red wine. I won’t say that we imbibed too much that day. Then again, I won’t say that we didn’t imbibe too much that day. I’ll say only that if a mosquito bit any one of us that day, it would have needed a glass of water as a chaser.
At the end of the party, I was sitting on a chair, unaware of the fact that outside Carmine had lit the charcoal grill. Without saying a syllable, he handed me a dish with a grilled patty made from the leftover sausage meat, in a grilled bun. For whatever reason, remembering that moment reminds me of his incredible generosity and the lack of pretention with which he fed everyone around him. For him it was a normal thing to do to make a gluten-free lasagne and bring a piece of it to his physical therapist. Or the time that we were talking on the phone and I asked him about rabbit recipes. The very next day there’s a knock on my door. There he is, holding two plastic containers, one with rabbit “cif e ciaf” and the other with rabbit “in umido.” 
There just isn’t time to tell you all these stories. However, I would be remiss not to mention a birthday party of mine, about 20 years ago. Carmine drove to Revere and brought an entire lasagne and an entire porchetta. Enough to feed my entire family and friends. He did things like that. And come to think of it, in 25 years he never asked me a favor. He did a lot of favors, but he never asked for one.
Throughout his life Carmine loved to write poetry. During his final illness, while at the Eliot rehab here in Natick, he wrote several poems. They could have been written by someone born not in 1936 but 1886. One of them ended in Latin! Of these poems, there was one that struck me in particular. It begins “Here I am at the edge of the deep abyss that separates death from life.”

Eccomi all’orlo del profondo abisso
Che separa la morte dalla vita
Di vivere la spem quasi è finita
Solo mi sento come il crocifisso
Come lui di morir non ho paura
Perché male a nessuno ho fatto mai
Forse una volta o due anch’io sbagliai
ma l’alma mia rimase sempre pura
Del futuro non vedo alcun bagliore
Le tenebre mi dicon “Non sperare
fugge dai cimiteri anche la speme.”
Dentro di me qualcosa assai mi preme
Mi sento forte ancora da lottare
Pur se lottar vuol dire grande dolore

Less that two weeks before he died, I was on Facebook, and on Linda Onorato’s timeline there was a photo of a wonderful meal. Knowing how weak Carmine was, I figured it was from several years ago. She replied, “No, this is happening right now. Come over.” This was at 9:39 p.m. At 9:51 I was in Carmine’s driveway. Seated at the table were Linda Onorato, Kristin Brothers, and Linda Zaleski. There was the old lion, the charmer, reading his romantic poetry to these three blushing women, tears trickling down their cheeks.
The three ladies left. I remained for about 45 more minutes, until about 11:40. Just me and Carmine, talking. Our final conversation.
He was very tired, yet still he was the host of the Bacchanal. “Have some more wine. Have some more Centerba. Would you like some limoncello?”
I said to him, “Carmine, you’ve been such a wonderful friend to all of us, and in all these years you’ve never asked anything of us. Have we been good friends to you in return?”
He replied, “Of course. I don’t want anything in return. All that matters is the love.”

***

The following was his obituary (which I also wrote).


Carmine A. Trubiano, age 80, of Natick, died peacefully on July 27, 2016 at Brigham & Women’s Hospital. He had recently been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.
Mr. Trubiano was born in Castiglione a Casauria, a town of 850 inhabitants in the Italian province of Pescara, the eldest child of Ivra (Ranella) Trubiano and Lucio Trubiano. He attended the Liceo Classico Ovidio in nearby Sulmona, where he studied Latin Language and Literature, as well as Classical Greek. After further studies in Rome, he lived in France for three years, where he learned both welding and French cuisine. He worked in Holland for seven months before emigrating to the United States in October, 1960. (He would become an American citizen in May, 1966.) From 1960 to 1963 he worked for Westinghouse Electric in Boston, while studying English at Wellesley High Night School. From 1964 to 1973 he co-owned a welding business in Framingham. He received a B. A. in French at Boston University (1973), an M. A. in Education and Italian at Boston University (1975), and completed coursework for a D.M.L. in Italian at Middlebury College (1978). After a brief tenure teaching Italian at Watertown High School (1975), he taught Italian Language and Literature at Newton North High School from 1975 to 1981. In Newton and Middlebury he directed several plays, including Pirandello’s “La giara,” Tozzi’s “L’uva,” Fratti’s “Il dentista e la dentista,” Pirandello’s “La favola del figlio cambiato,” and his own “L’apologia di Don Venanzio.”
In the 1980s and ‘90s, Mr. Trubiano was a well-known figure in the North End of Boston, where he worked as a manager for several important restaurants, most notably Ristorante Filippo. He was also a member of the Massachusetts Foreign Language Association, the Italian-American Educational Club (Wellesley), and the Dante Alighieri Society (Cambridge).
Mr. Trubiano was a prolific poet who continued to write poems right up to his death. His poetry includes two collections, “America amara” (115 poems) and “A Najwa” (38 poems).
Mr. Trubiano is survived by three sons, Luciano, Enzo, and Mario; and siblings, Pasquina Gaspari of Italy, Reno Trubiano of Framingham, Mario Trubiano of Rhode Island, Dino Trubiano of Natick, and Fausto Trubiano of Natick.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, September 10th at 1 p.m. in the chapel of the John Everett & Sons Funeral Home, 4 Park Street at Natick Common. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Natick Visiting Nurse Association (www.natickvna.org) or Bay Path Elder Services (www.baypath.org).

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