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He hadn’t returned for his father’s funeral; he wouldn’t have Overland Park made it in time. His father would live in his memory, Overland Park his shoulders hunched by hard labour and illness, and with the good-natured smile from last summer. He is reminded that we all belong to the place where our parents are buried. And I’ll be buried in some cemetery in Toronto, Overland Park thinks, and my children will belong even more strongly to Overland Park. And I’ll be a bridge between generations, between worlds far away from each other.

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He reminds Carlo to please make sure that there will always be flowers and candles on his father’s grave, walks out of the cemetery, gets into his car and drives into the village. The door into his house is ajar. He pushes it open slowly to make sure there’s enough time to be seen. His sister, as though she was expecting him, rushes towards him with arms wide open. Nunzio caresses Maria’s head and hair; she looks more and more like his mother. “Mother is upstairs,” says Maria, anticipating her brother’s question.

Overcome with emotion, he climbs the stairs. Sitting on a chair, holding a cup of coffee with milk, his mother looks at him, and seems to see a familiar face whose name she doesn’t remember. “Hello, ma’! I’m back, you see. How are you?” The woman is startled. “How are you? You’ve come from far away? Have you seen my son, Nunzio? The poor boy is in Toronto, for work. He didn’t come back when his father died. He must have suffered so much.”

Nunzio and Maria look at each other, unsure whether to laugh or cry. They smile, as only two siblings complicit in the knowledge of lives broken and reunited can. Nunzio caresses his mother’s face, who, if only for a moment, seems to recognize him and so she begins to tell him, in an ancient chant, about her past, listing facts and names, and events. Within minutes Nunzio and Maria have told each other the bare essentials. They’ll need days to go over other matters, not so close to their own lives: village stories and stories from Canada, stories of relatives from there and from here, of who came to pay their respects for their bereavement and who is still to come, of who died and who’s ill, who’ll be getting married at the end of the summer, where to find a gift.

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