Saturday, July 10, 2004


JULY 10, 2004

We’re finding our lives becoming slowing but surely intertwined with the lives of our friends and neighbors. Our new neighbor, Frank, the one from Detroit, is not only related to Marushka at the pizzeria, but also to Fabio, our plumber.

On two separate occasions we have returned to San Venanzo to discover that the town band had just finished playing. We were disappointed to have missed the band, but even more disappointed when we found out that Fabio plays in the band. Yesterday Frank told us that Fabio is quite an accomplished musician. For many years he was the number one rated squeeze box player in Umbria. Additionally, Fabio teaches music..

Although Fabio has a degree in music, he had to get a “real” job to support his family, so he became a plumber. Fortunately he still plays not only in the town band, but also in a group of some sort. We don’t know what type of music the group plays, but Frank told us that when they’re playing, a notice will be posted in the gift shop, where Fabio’s wife works.

Frank was taken to the hospital in Todi a few weeks ago when he had trouble breathing. He was in the hospital from Sunday night until the following Saturday, and was very pleased with the care he received. He needs to have angioplasty to clear a blockage, and was going to have this done in Perugia. Now he’s thinking that he’ll go back to the states for the procedure.

Anyway, as a result of his hospitalization, his daughter Maria flew over to help out. From what we have gathered, Frank’s children weren’t too happy with his plan to move to Italy. We got the impression that not only did they not support the move, but that they were basically more concerned about their inheritance. This made me think about the idea of inheritances.

Now we might be completely off base here, but from what Frank said, we think that his kids want a share of the money that his wife left Frank when she died last June. This includes property that she inherited from her family in Italy…property in Italy, as well as a house in Germany, where her family lived for many years.

Why his children would expect this is beyond me. In my case, when my dad died six years ago, everything went to my mom. This is exactly what I expected to happen, just as when Art or I die, the other will inherit everything. When my mom died last year, and when the last one of us goes, the children will divide the estate.

This is not the common procedure in Italy. When a parent dies in Italy, they inherit half of the estate. The other half is divided equally among the spouse and the children. Right now we’re not sure what, if anything, we need to do to override this situation. It’s a problem for us because I have two children and Art has one. Should Art die first, for example, I would inherit half, and Kelly and I would share the other half. This would give me ¾ of the estate and Kelly ¼. When I died, my two children would split that ¾, giving them each 3/8, and Kelly would have ¼. Not an equitable distribution. Our wishes are for the surviving spouse to inherit everything, and then for the three children to share equally when the other one dies.

Not that everything always needs to be divided equally. I think this is another area where I differ with the current thinking. It seems that nowadays, it’s EXPECTED for parents to leave a large inheritance for their children. Maybe it’s even regarded as a duty, but I completely disagree with this. I think of an inheritance as something completely unexpected…something that shouldn’t be planned on…a gift more than anything else.

Of course there are also situations where one child might inherit a larger share, or that people other than the children would share in an estate. I think this should be completely up to the individual to distribute the money they worked so hard for to whomever they choose.

When my mom died last May, we were very lucky that things seemed to work out between the three children, and also among the grandchildren. Although my mom had told us that her will would specify certain things to certain people, for whatever reason, it did not. We had all known for many years which pieces of furniture were meant for each of us though, and none of us had a problem with the way it was divided in the end. Since I was moving to Italy, I only wanted a few small pieces. My brother doesn’t have a house, and plans to travel, so for now my sister will keep the pieces that are his. And of course, the fact that my sister and I were both grown with houses of our own meant that we didn’t have room for a lot of stuff.

Most of the things I kept have sentimental value…the tiny souvenirs from our travels that I bought over the years for her curio shelf. The glass apple that my dad bought in New York City. The painting of my mom that my dad had done while he was in Italy during the war. I also brought a few pieces of crystal that I know are old. Unfortunately, the stories that go with most of the pieces she left will be lost.

All of the grandchildren were able to have some things from my mom also, and I think (and hope) that no one felt slighted. For me and my sister, the monetary value of the things we took was unimportant. We didn’t bother trying to make sure that the pieces she got were equal in value to the pieces I got. That was just so unimportant to us. We each got things that meant something to us.

It’s wonderful to have a piece of furniture or crystal or whatever to be a reminder of the person who’s gone. I think about how my mom loved to refinish furniture when I look at the antiques washstand in my living room. I think about how much she loved to sew and to quilt when I look at the wall hanging in my kitchen or when I use the placemats she made. Even the simple apron that she made for me many years ago has a special meaning.

In the end, though, those are just THINGS, and if we had fought over who got what, we would have been missing the point entirely. What my mom gave us was her life…literally. Her life, her time, her knowledge, her advice, her help. Anything else was just a bonus.

Art and I have assured our kids that we’ll do everything we can to make sure that they have very little to fight over! We both worked very hard and made a lot of sacrifices to be where we are today. Now is the time for us to sit back, relax, and enjoy the fruits of our labors, not squirrel everything away so that our kids will have a huge inheritance.

So, enough of the sermon! Back to Frank and his daughter! The daughter, Maria, seems to be the only child who is interested in Italy. And the fact that she’s the one who jumped on a plane when her dad was ill makes me think that she might not be greedy or upset with her dad’s decision to live in Italy.

Maria also brought along her six year old daughter, Antonia. We met Maria and Antonia the other night at the gelateria. Antonia has some cousins her age here, and as with all kids, seems to blend in despite the language barrier. Back home in Detroit, Maria has been driving Antonia thirty miles to take Italian lessons, but they don’t seem to be working out. The fact that Maria is making this effort speaks volumes about her interest in the Italian side of her family, don’t you think?

Maria wants to go to Florence while she’s here, but they’ve been having a hard time figuring out how to get there. Frank only has an Ape for now, and there’s no way three people could ride in it to the train station in Perugia. Maria talked about catching the bus from here to Orvieto, then catching the train to Florence, but the travel time would be so long! We offered to take her to the train station in Ponte San Giovanni one day this week, and may even go to Florence ourselves. Yes, we know it’s July and will be filled with tourists, but the temperature is supposed to be quite mild, so maybe we’ll go.

Yesterday Jill, Larry, and Jill’s mom Jackie came for lunch. And can you believe it…those FORTY tomato plants that Larry put out are all at the in between stage, with no ripe tomatoes! I was planning on a least a bushel!

We had a nice lunch, and ate inside because it was so breezy outside. The previous evening, sitting outside at the gelateria, I had nearly frozen! The wind was blowing up a storm and brought much cooler temperatures with it. Great for sleeping, but too cold to sit outside wearing shorts and a tee shirt!

After lunch we did sit in the garden. Our garden is so private and peaceful, and we get such a nice breeze. We’re very lucky to be one of the few people to have a garden in the centro, and we love it. All our hard work has paid off, and we’re both very pleased with the results. We painted the door to the caldaio room last week, so other than the major undertaking of painting the exterior of the house, I think we’re finished!

I told Art that I’ve decided that I really don’t want to spend the money to have the house painted. Right now it’s just gray…the color of the concrete that was applied as the finish over the bricks. I have no idea how much it would cost, but since we’re now on a fixed income, and since the dollar seems to be back on a downward spiral, I would rather spend our money having fun!

When we lived in the states, whenever we thought about a project, I would always measure the cost of the project against my travel plans. Finishing the basement, would cost $25,000….I could take a LOT of trips to Italy (or England, or Switzerland or Turkey) for that amount of money. Of course Art always thought that we could do EVERYTHING, but that’s because he’s the spender. I’m the saver, although I have to admit that he’s corrupted me over the years. But, as he likes to remind me, he’s had to force me to have all those good times, all those wonderful adventures! And yes, they all got paid for, we didn’t have to go into debt or rob a bank, so I’m glad that he forced me!

Today I made another batch of pesto. I need to look at the Coop to see if they have any small containers suitable for freezing it. I may run out of the ones I brought with me, but then again, I’m not sure if I’ll have room in the freezer. It will be a careful balancing act.

Today is yet another absolutely gorgeous day. The skies are blue and the temperature is in the upper 70’s. The humidity is very low…such a nice change from summer in Louisville! There’s a nice breeze blowing through the house. I think it’s time to go outside and enjoy the garden. Summer in Italy is wonderful.


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