Giuliano Mori, 1943–2017
On 24 November 2017, I was crossing the street near my place when my iPhone rang. When I saw it was my mum, calling directly my Spanish phone number and at an unscheduled time of day, my heart skipped a beat. That meant Bad News almost certainly. She asked where I was, and if I could drop everything and come as soon as possible. Your father has been rushed to the hospital. He’s in a coma and in the ICU now.
The brief phone call left me in a sort of drunken daze. Shocked, stunned, powerless. Because it wasn’t easy to ‘come as soon as possible’, given that my identity card had expired in August, and that I had to take a plane and one or two trains and a car ride before I could reach my mother. During the call, I had enough presence of mind to explain her that I would call the Italian Consulate in Spain and request they renew my ID immediately (I had already sent the necessary request papers back in May, but bureaucracy was slowing down things as usual), but that there were things out of my control. I’ll come as fast as I can, but even if all goes well I can’t be there before Monday 27.
But the emergency dissipated quickly. The day after, my mother called again. I spoke with the doctors earlier. They said he’s basically brain-dead.
Dad was gone. Just like that. A devastating brain haemorrhage. Just like that. He wasn’t in great health. He was suffering from heart and blood issues. His heart, in recent times, had entered a constant state of fibrillation and was accelerated even when resting. His cardiologist had told him he still had a few years, but not many, considering all the other circulatory issues. Yet his passing felt sudden and untimely.
After a month, after the funeral, the condolences, after seeing him in a coffin, I’m still in a sort of denial. That shock that makes you wonder, Is he really gone? It can’t be.
I loved my dad so much. We’ve always had a great relationship, especially thanks to a true similarity of character. We had the same sense of humour. We were often on the same wavelength. Of course we had our differences, but this happened mostly when I was in my twenties, when it was clear that my life was going in a different direction than the one my parents and grandparents wished. When he saw that I was able to sustain myself through my freelancing work, he was proud of me.
My dad was a very good person. I’m not saying this because it’s my dad or because it’s bad form to speak ill of the dead. He was really a very good person. The kind who teaches you to be another good person simply by example. He never lifted a finger on me. He never ‘beat the reason out of me’. Even when he was not pleased with me, he always explained why.
I was practically raised by my mother’s parents, because my parents both worked at very different times of day, and they couldn’t afford a nanny to look after me while they were at work. So I stayed with my grandparents from Monday to Friday, then went home on the weekends and during the holidays. This until I was about 15 years old. My grandfather was authoritarian, the kind of hardened man who told you Do as I say because I say so, and Trust me, because I’m always right. He was also moody and prone to fits of anger (this was caused by the constant quarrels with my grandmother), and the only tolerable moments were when he was in a good mood. I’m not painting a great picture of him, I reckon, and luckily he wasn’t physically abusive as often as you’d think. But he was a difficult person to live with. He could be unreasonable and demanding. He was the kind of person that would force positive values (like being a tidy person and take care of your things) by threatening to slap you if you didn’t do as he said. And the truly frustrating aspect of all this, which annoyed me deeply even when I was little, was that my grandfather never explained why his way was the right way. I had to ‘trust him’.
My dad was the polar opposite. The result was that, while my granddad never really gained my trust or respect, my dad did, with ease. While my granddad was raising me by doing exactly what his father did with him, my dad — who had an equally terrible father — learnt from his father’s mistakes and acted very very differently.
He had a natural intellectual curiosity, and was very eager to learn new things. Like many people of his generation, he started working very young (at 13), and was forced to interrupt his studies. But he later managed to finish the compulsory education by going to evening classes. He always tried to better himself, to expand his knowledge, to take care of himself by keeping in shape; life had given him very little, and he fought for everything he then managed to achieve. He was an example of resilience. He never said to me, Do as I say, but rather showed me that if I did a certain thing, or approached something with a certain attitude, I could achieve the desired result because — he said — I’ve been there, and done that. Maybe it won’t work in your situation, but it doesn’t hurt to try.
He was a maker, he was great with tools: carpentry, plumbing, electricity… you name it. He was also a good mechanic, having spent 20 years in a car repair shop, and a few years as an autocross driver. But he was also a quick learner when he took a desk job as archivist in a factory where they built industrial electrical transformers. He always maintained an open mind, in every situation, and that was what allowed him to develop a natural instinct and sensibility for many subjects that were technically outside his expertise. He was able to think like a designer and an engineer without having studied to become either. And the passion for building and learning never left him. At 55, almost he alone renovated the house my parents bought in Northern Tuscany. At 72, he decided to upgrade his dumbphone and get a smartphone. (I still smile when I remember what he told me: Sorry it’s an Android phone. I know Apple is better, but an iPhone was out of my budget…). I thought I would have to show him how to do a lot of things with that big Huawei phone, but he became proficient at an incredible speed.
In a way, if I had to sum up the big lesson he taught me, it would be something like Steve Jobs’s Stay hungry, stay foolish. And keep an open mind, always.
My dad was my superhero. Since my relocation in Spain more than 12 years ago, we only spent about a month and a half together every year, but even with the physical distance between us, I always felt protected, if you know what I mean. I always felt I could reach out for advice, or just for joking and laughing at the same jokes. He was my superhero, and now he’s gone, and I can’t believe it. You know when they say that a part of you dies, too? It’s true. When they say you’re never ready for this kind of loss? It’s true. Even when you imagine how much it might hurt, when it really happens it hurts at least a hundred times more.
My dad is nowhere and everywhere at the same time. Every time I come across a photo of him, I bleed tears. It’s excruciating.
I’ll always miss him. Always love him. I hope there’s an afterlife, because he definitely deserves one.
Apologies for the lack of recent updates here. Lately I haven’t really felt like talking about technology, or other topics that usually interest me; now you know why.