Maria and My Father Clash


Normally my father was a quiet and peaceful man. The only time that I saw him lose his temper completely was at the time that it had become known that my mother was with child again. As a child I was very aware of things. Being precocious, I was blessed with more than the usual amount of curiosity. To make matters worse, I was a good listener and remembered practically everything I heard.

I recall being present when my mother told Maria that she was pregnant again. I remember hearing Maria's raspy voice as she advised my mother that at age 37, she was too old to have another child, especially after she had already had 5, that she recommended that my mother visit Signora Angelina Martino, who lived over on Hill Street. Upon hearing Signora Martino's name, my mother became quite agitated and nervous. She hastily begged to be excused and hustled me out of Maria's flat.

That evening, at the dinner table, not knowing that Signora Martino was an abortionist, I asked my mother why Maria told her to see that lady who lived over on Hill Street. My mother's face turned crimson as she looked across the table at my father. He reacted instantaneously. He seemed to know all about Signora Martino and why Maria had advised my mother to visit her.

Without asking for details, he abruptly left the table and headed straight for Maria's place downstairs.




Before I could be stopped, I followed my father. Reaching Maria's door my father thumped on it imperiously. Frightened, I remained on the landing above. In the flickering light of the coal oil lamp that illuminated the stairway, I could see Maria's questioning face appear in the doorway. My father delivered his message. It was short but clear. "Se tu parlare con mia moglie un altra volta, Io ti taglio la tua capo!" "If you speak to my wife again, I will cut your head off!" Maria's dark leathery complexion turned pale with fear. She bowed meekly, saying, "Io ho capito, don Rocco!", "I understand Don Rocco," and hastily closed her door.

Later that night, while in bed, I heard my father talking with my mother. What he said to her has come back to me many times over the years. His words were quite prophetic. They were, "The child you are carrying shall not be destroyed, as Maria has advised! Who knows what important work this child may be called on to do in this world of ours, God alone knows! "That child, my mother's last, my younger brother Art, grew up to become a general surgeon, who served in five campaigns in World War II as a battle field surgeon, helped found a hospital in one of Cleveland's largest suburbs and used his surgical skills to help those who came to him for almost forty years.