“Well Papa, and then?” They asked together.
With the money I saved and with a bank loan I started again. I bought the vacant block of land next to the shop as well. I liked the position fronting the river, but fifty years back this suburb only had a few scattered houses. I had the feeling then, that soon the area would be part of the city. As you can see this has been a good investment. Then I built the first section of the restaurant. The rest came later, a section at the time, and all of you should remember that well.”
“Yes – Maria said – I remember. We were here when Mother died, I was five then, and that has been the only occasion I saw you crying.”
“Yes Maria, I loved her very much. In her last wish she asked me to promise that I will remarry again. She wanted me to form a family, so you girls would not suffer without a mother. Often, even now after so many years, I spend time at Milena’s grave and I talk to her with love, as I used to in the old days. She has been an inspiration to me through time and seems to understand my thoughts.”
“Is that the reason why you married mother’s younger sister?” Maria asked.
“Yes Maria. Teresa, who was your new mother, came over to look after you when your mother was critically ill. Soon after Milena died, I became emotionally aware of Teresa. I liked the way she loved you girls. One day, I asked her to marry me and she has been my wife for nearly forty years now, and I have never regretted that, have I Teresa?”
“Yes darling, I have been happy with you all this time. You have always been good to me and to all our children.” Teresa agreed.
“I believe all the rest is well known. Family closeness creates miracles and we have prospered all these years, and we can say no other catastrophes have hit the family since then.” Sergio said.
A chorus of disagreement came from the family, so Sergio asked, “Have I said something wrong?”
It was Teresa, who answered for all of them, “Sergio, you are forgetting two years of your life, and that period had been very crucial to us. A matter of fact at that time, I didn’t know how to manage the business and family by myself. How could you possibly forget that accident?”
And Maria added, “Yes Papa, I was twelve then, and the only one able to help Mama in the restaurant, doing what I possible could. Sissy was the one, even if only ten, who was looking after our younger brothers. Luca at that time had just started walking, and Carlo was at primary school.”
And Carlo took over saying, “I can still remember you, Papa. You were in hospital for months, in a coma. All of us were crying around your bed, but you never said a word to us and you were so white with so many tubes connected to your body. We were asking Mum what happened, but she could only tell me, ‘We have to pray and hope.’
“Mother kept a lighted candle in front of the Virgin Mary all the time and we prayed together the rosary, twice a day, every single day you were sick.”
“Yes Sergio, I thought at that time, you couldn’t possibly survive. But I never told the children of my anxiety. Then after two months you woke up. It took a long time before you could recognize any of us or say a word. When the accident happened, you hit your head on a step of the loading area and damaged your brain.”
Maria said, “Papa, after you came home, you couldn’t speak to any of us. Your eyes were empty and lost. You scared me seeing you in that way, for so long. You shouted bad words to anybody without reason. I worried you were insane and at night I spent long hours crying in bed because you were not longer the lovely father I could remembered.”
And Teresa said again, “Can you remember, Sergio, that for nearly two years I took you to the hospital for physiotherapy?
“In the first year we couldn’t see any good result. Your brain wouldn’t coordinate and your muscles refused to do the simplest things. You couldn’t move one step after the other without help. Finally one day a miracle happened, and without anybody supporting you, you walked across the room slowly but steadily. From that day, your muscles slowly started to respond to the commands of your brain and you learned to walk again. Therapeutic exercise helped to activate your body’s muscles, and at the same time helped your brain to function better until it started to send back to your body the right messages. Slowly, in time, you returned to be the Sergio we always had known and loved before.
“Finally to complete the miracle it was the desire in you to be the same man as before, and mix with the people around you. But more importantly you wanted to be back where you had always belonged, working in your restaurant.”
Sergio felt proud of them but he didn’t wanted to show them his weakness, so he concluded, “Certainly I do remember those days and I’m grateful to all of you. That is what families are for, to help each other when the need arises. But now is time to think about the future, and we have so much work in front of us to properly organize that special day when we will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of our restaurant.”
The day selected for the official opening of the new restaurant came. On that day, the main door was locked and there were none of the festive activities planned. On the door a sign had been placed regretting any inconvenience to the patrons.
At 11 A.M. that morning, the family, friends and some close patrons congregated at the Catholic Church in Hamilton to give their last respectful salute to Sergio. A stroke, three days earlier, had stopped his generous heart.
On the following Tuesday, Carlo called a special family business meeting. At that occasion, all of them agreed, that a bronze bust of Sergio, their beloved father and husband, would be ordered and, when ready, be placed under the Santa Margherita mural.
Also Carlo, the new head of the family, suggested a special historical album to be printed, grouping together photos and brief notes, representing the last fifty years of the family business.
On the meeting report it was mentioned they intended to honor in that way Sergio’s tenacity and his will to create for the new generation, that glamorous restaurant overlooking the Brisbane River which had become the centre of attraction to the people of the city