The roots of cypresses

I don’t know the Italian word for “mensch,” but Rocco Schiavone is a mensch.  He’s the detective in the eponymous series of which season one goes off Amazon Prime this weekend.  But not to worry, seasons one to three can be viewed with the PBS Masterpiece add-on to Prime.

When I saw that season one was going off, I decided to check it out and got hooked. Rocco is your typical good-guy TV cop, who bends or breaks the law but all in the service of justice, and what is different, in the name of humanity and common decency.  Some viewers may not appreciate the humor of Rocco exploding at the stupidity of the “Laurel and Hardy” cops with whom he is saddled, but I did.  Rocco is far from perfect.  Two women dump drinks on him during the season.

It wasn’t until well into the second episode that I realized the real reason why I was taken with Rocco.  He talks with his dead wife.  I do, too.  Unlike Rocco’s, however, mine does not answer.  This aspect of Rocco’s story is more than a gimmick.  While their banter is light-hearted, the conversations between Rocco and Marina are a serious study in grief.  They illustrate George Bonnano’s insight that we “don’t grieve the facts.” Rather we grieve the memories, however accurate, because “how we grieve … is determined by what we do with our memories, how we experience them, and what we take from them during bereavement.”

This blog grew out the project I started in my grief after Laura’s death.  I struggled to convey how she suffered, something she could not articulate because of the aphasia caused by brain cancer.  I could be totally wrong, and that would have been part of her agony, but I think that her suffering from aphasia was greater than any of her physical pains.  Whereas Rocco kept talking with his wife for nine years after her death, I kept searching for words adequate to our experience.  Unfortunately, just as Rocco didn’t let her go, I turned this struggle into an intellectual exercise parsing and arguing with Bonnano and other writers like Joan Didion and C.S. Lewis.

During one of their conversations, Rocco and Marina talk about the cypresses they see on the Aventine Hill in Rome.  (The picture at the top is of the cypresses on the Palatine Hill when Anne Mei and I visited Rome in 2012.)  According to Rocco, cypresses are planted in cemeteries because the roots grow straight down and do not disturb the dead.  I like that as a metaphor for how we go on living with the dead.

This year the anniversary of Laura’s death during the night of January 29-30 falls on the same Friday-Saturday weekdays that they did in 2010.  Last year I posted the story of that night.  Here is what I posted on the CaringBridge blog at the start of that night in 2010 to let family and friends know that the end was near.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 29, 2010 10:17 PM, EST

Laura stopped eating and drinking yesterday. Her family is all gathered around her. Giving her lots of love.






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