Saturday, April 14, 2012

Lessons From a 92-year-old Neighbour

He gave up riding his bicycle a few years ago and now he walks everywhere. Seeing him from a distance, he looks like a fit 70-year old. But he's not 70. He's 92 and going strong. He exudes all the elements a person needs to live a fulfilled life; and apparently also a long life. He, like many Italian immigrants, makes a great neighbour; always on the lookout for what someone may need. (And he is as opinionated as he is generous). My mother and I live only a block from each other, so Satimio is a neighbour to us both. Last summer, while my husband and I were away on holidays, he noticed the wild rose bushes encroaching onto my mother's walkway. Rather than drastically snip back the bushes, he drove three mental stakes into the ground and pulled the rose stems away from the walkway. I must say, it gives me great piece of mind that my 82-year old mother has a 92-year old neighbour who keeps an eye on her.

The other night, I called Satimio on the phone to tell him that I was planning to drop off a jar of soup in his porch. The next morning, I received a call from him, inviting myself, my husband and my mother over for lunch. When we arrived, my soup was certainly not needed as he has made us home made spaghetti. Also on the table, he had set out salami, cheese, bread, wine and ginger ale. Wonderful. Simply wonderful... not just the food but also the conversation. We covered everything from war to politics to the gap between the rich and the poor. Satimio is a passionate pacifist. He takes great pride in the fact that, while fighting as an Italian solder against the Russians, he harmed no one. While he was there, he thought it an insane task that he should be asked to take the life of a young man, a man as young as himself.

Though we talk about serious issues, Satimio sometimes has a mischievous twinkle in his eye. He tells us that he had planned to live to a hundred. But his friend informed him that at one hundred, he would receive a letter from the Queen and the Pope. Well that settled it. Now he's decided he'd rather die at 99. When I return home from lunch, I begin to think of the life lessons Satimio has taught me over the years.

1. Be engaged and active about world issues
2. Cook for your friends.
3. Keep a garden. (He has already begun to sprout seeds in his front porch.)
4. Speak your mind.
5. Keep walking. Never stop walking, if you are fortunate enough to be able to walk.
6. Keep a sense of humour.
7. Be generous.
8. Consume only what you need.
9. Give sincere hugs and affection.
10. Fill a corner of your house with pictures of family.

Before I left Satimio's he pressed a small piece of amethyst into the palm of my hand. I've placed it beside my work station to remind myself of what's important in life. I hope Satimio is right and that he will live to 99. But whatever age he lives to, I know he will always have his seeds sprouting in his window, ready to plant his next garden.


  1. We are lucky enough to have Satimio as our neighbour directly behind our house. We stare at his pink chimney.... He calls our names through the bushes, and we have a 'whole' in the bushes where we can exchange things - mostly from his house to ours - like fresh lettuce from his garden in mid summer, or fresh berries, or, plums when they are ripe in late summer. We have had the honour of eating his spaghetti, salami, old gouda cheese (he aged himself in the basement).... We never miss bringing our kids' to his place on halloween, and we love picking fruit and veggies with him when he is around. Our kids love him. He is all these things you mentioned and more... He loves beauty and truth. He is multi-lingual. He loves children. He loves good growing seasons for his plum trees (he gave us one baby plum tree - that gave us 4 plums last season)..... Thank you thank you thank you thank you for writing this - Satimio deserves many odes to him... He speaks his voice also in letters to the editor to the Chronicle (which rarely get printed) that he types up on his very old typerwriter. He lifts weights in the morning (hand weights he stores under his bed) and rows on his rowing machine while watching TV. He's beaten cancer and other ailments many times, and every time he escapes the hospital he recounts stories of how the doctors were trying to kill him (in laughter and sneaky smile of course). And, the list goes on. We are lucky to have him, and hopefully, we can all be more like him as neighbours...... :) Thanks Eleanor.

  2. Thank you also for adding to the wonderful litany of Satimio. It amazes me to hear stories of how he is a part of your lives and the lives of your children, just as he was for my three children over 20 years ago. He is a gem in so many ways.