“Atta Unsar” these are the opening words of the only written record we have of Gothic, the language that preceded common German from which English originates. It’s the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer and it means “our Father”. The verses were so important to transmit that they were stabilized in written form, and not merely consigned to the vagaries of oral transmission.
This is a figure of enormous importance and meaning through the ages. My father Achille was born in 1935, the first son of a dashing man who served with the Italian Red Cross in Libya and a woman so achingly beautiful they called her “la lupa”.
A mechanical engineer as a choice profession, father never left the arts too far behind. By the time I was old enough to appreciate it, we had an in house library of thousands of books, including two full encyclopedias. All connected to each other, from the Greek tragedies and mythology, to philosophy, poetry, history of thought, biographies, and the great classics. Translated into Italian with original text in front, I had access to the great classics from many cultures and ages.
Father started on stage alongside one of today’s most prominent Italian dubbing actors, Massimo Foschi. I still have his audition tapes where he recorded Luigi Pirandello in perfect diction and a warm baritone. That was the same voice that would lull me into sleep as a baby, musical and seductive like the song of Ulysses’ sirens.
The other art I learned from father was through the symphonic music programs he played on Sundays –- all the great composers from Mozart, my favorite, to Schubert, Bach, Beethoven, Albinoni, Liszt, Vivaldi, Respighi, Rossini, Mascagni, Verdi, Corelli, Chopin, and Debussy. The spirit of other times and stories enveloped and intrigued me during those quiet afternoons. Sometimes the best things are said without words.
A painting still drying, the brushes swirling in the cup like dissolving ice cubes, the odor of a lazy summer day in the air are all forever burned into my memory of a man who could spend hours enjoying the pure pleasure of learning.
I could never quite figure out how he did it -– here’s the part we want to produce, they would tell him, and he would design the machine that, when built, could give them that part. It’s a lost art, and maybe it was his Achilles’ heel, too.
He chose security over art, expression through children over self-expression, the stage of life over the life on stage. And maybe he gave up part of himself, of the possibility that his art could inspire and give to so many others, so that he could give and provide for us.
In doing that, he taught me to fight for the expression of the artist in all of us, especially of that amazing talent he transmitted to me with his sacrifice –- the love and appreciation of the finer things in life. I am my father’s daughter.