Monday 24 Oct 2016

Fate or Chance
AJ Robinson

Often times, people debate life. Are we puppets on strings? Does free will exist? Is there no rhyme or reason to anything?

I follow the belief that someone, call it God, the gods, the Fates, or whatever your belief system, sets up situations for us, but it is left to us to “turn right or turn left” at the proper. We choose. There was an event in my family’s life that illustrates just such a view.

In January 1945, my father encamped outside of Florence, Italy with his US Army unit. He and some friends managed to wrangle a three-day pass from their commanding officer (CO), largely due to the distance to the nearest town; he figured there was no way they could get into any trouble. Unperturbed by mere distance, they simply stole or borrowed, I guess is the more correct term, the CO’s jeep and drove into town.

Unfortunately, they ran out of gas near one of the many museums of the city and faced with the challenge of finding more. As this was near the end of the war, gas was in very short supply. The men wanted to find the nearest brothel and have some fun; they’d been in combat for quite some time and were feeling, anxious. My dad suggested they go inside the museum, get warm and then look to find some “companionship.”

The men grumbled, but complied.

As it happened, the regular tour guide was out sick that day and Bruno Rigacci covered for him. Rigacci, too, had grumbled at having to work on his day off, but decided to do it. He met with my dad and his men, and my dad, who could speak a bit of Italian, asked for a tour. As they moved about the museum, Bruno was impressed that my dad seemed very well versed in the arts and asked many good questions.

Meanwhile, at Bruno’s art supply store, his wife Maria was preparing to walk to the museum to get him and bring him home for their midday meal. This wasn’t unusual, she’d done it before, countless times on numerous days; it was part of their routine. Their daughter Silvana happened to be in the shop and, for some unknown reason, she asked to go along with her mother. Putting on their coats, the two walked to the museum and took refuge from the cold in the nice warm office.

Out in the main gallery, Bruno had brought my dad and his friends to view the art there. Silvana could hear them and, again, a strange feeling came over her. She had to go to her father! Now it was Maria’s turn to grumble; she didn’t want to leave the warm office, and she especially didn’t want her eighteen-year-old daughter around a bunch of American soldiers.

Silvana was insistent, and Maria finally relented. Bruno introduced them to my dad and his friends, and Maria took note of their action. My dad was courtesy and polite; he focused on the works of art as well as Bruno. The other men were full of false compliments and leering eyes. Silvana found it all overwhelming and tried to talk only a little bit. Her English wasn’t very good, and the men tended to talk very fast   and used a lot of American slang that was meaningless to her.

When the tour was over, the men fell all over themselves to compliment Silvana, Bruno and Maria and to try; they tried to get their address. Well, all but one, that is: Maria and Bruno were tighter than the vault at Fort Knox! My dad fished around in his pockets and found the one treat he had on him, a simple box of lemon drops, which he gave to Silvana.

Bruno and Maria exchanged a knowing look. They liked this man, this Arthur Robinson, and Bruno slipped him a small piece of paper. On it, they wrote their address.

Two months later, when my dad’s unit had settled into a semi-permanent site just outside of Florence, he went to visit Silvana. By spring, they were in love, and married soon after. That is how my parents met.

The question remains: was it fate, or chance? Looking back over the course of events that brought them together, including World War II itself, one has to wonder,  could all of that had been only chance or was it fate?

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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