I usually portray my mother and father, Fran and Lee, as two wretched, hateful and profoundly mentally ill dysfunctionals. One of my sisters is fond of referring to our mother as The Fran Monster. As for Lee, no one word or phrase seems to capture his essence. I think German was actually created so that people could describe someone like my father. You know how the Germans string together many words to create one new word? Very clever thing. It would work for my father: abusiveviolentdrunkmeancruelunethicalsexoffenderadultererchildbeater. See, that would never work in English and yet in German it would likely make perfect sense.
But life with my parents wasn't all nightmares. In all fairness to them, we had our good times as well. I'm certain that each one of my sisters can recount some wonderful adventure, the occasional abuse-free moment and heart-warmer like when my dying mother would hurl insults at the hospice nuns, likely driving the sisters of mercy to morphine (easily found in a hospice.) How my mother ended up in a Catholic hospice is still a mystery to me even though it does seem like justice was served on both sides of that equation.
Recently, I was reading an article in the Times about SIENNA, a small and beautiful gem of a city in the Tuscany region of northern Italy. The article reminded me of a peaceful moment with my parents as we stood in the center of the PIAZZA DEL CAMPO, discussing the PALIO and admiring the ancient towers. This moment is chief among my fond memories of our one and only European vacation.