Sunday, May 14, 2017

100 Years: Commemorating the Birth of Dr Arthur Zampella

From Negatives Found in a Box Left Behind: Like Fragments of Worthless China
The hands of time have turned a year once more, and I find myself marking the passing of time. Not at the start of another summer, but rather, at the anniversary of my father’s birth. May 15th, marks 100 years since Erminio and Filomenna Zampella welcomed Arthur Dante Louis Zampella into a world that he wanted to make a better place.

That fact he has been a focal point in my world in the decades since his absence is a testament to the profound impact that he had on my life. My dad is the one person in my upbringing that had absolutely faith in my abilities. At various milestones in our time together, he was always my ardent supporter who saw things effortlessly when I could not. He had ultimate faith in me, even when I expressed self doubt. Several days before he died, he shared with me that one day Idylease would be under my stewardship and all the dreams and aspirations I had for the property would become so. When things looked bleak in my endeavors to realize his wish, his words kept me moving forward to its rightful conclusion.

My father represents the legacy that has been drawn over my life. But while a legacy can carry tremendous responsibility, it can also be an unexpected safe harbor—think of a child from a story, who is heartened to find that the older hero-kid is the one who has snuck up behind, to protect him.

Whatever we know about the fate of the dead, it is the tradition of Christians to pray for them and to commemorate them at regular intervals.

I have even come to know my father deeper in his absence. It is not unusual for fate to place me in the path that some inexplicable force brings people to me that knew him at various times in his life. I would venture to say, he has willed certain things to be and I take full advantage of these opportunities. Knowing him thus has given me a way and a role of knowing him in a way that my siblings, did not.

For them, he is the soft-spoken, country doctor—walking slowly in his white bucks, sitting at the kitchen table at night opening mail and reading the Sunday Times. This is the comfortable version of what they chose to remember.

I remember this father, too, and in the 25 years I knew him, he provided an astute example of fathering that I have never lost the memory of or the significance of his gift of making the world a better place: The phone ringing in the dead of night, and my father dressed within minutes with his shirttail hanging out, ready to head out on a medical emergency. He would tell me to grab his bag. He never asked if I wanted to go with him, but rather it was unspoken and understood that I should accompany him.

Sometimes, we would find distraught family members that had been robbed of a loved one. I know that these calls bothered him deeply. Even at an early age, our conversations on the ride home were about the fragility of life.

I saw him in situations that my siblings never saw and for inexplicable reasons, they refuse to acknowledge this. Vivid memories of valiant efforts and fighting to save lives with a defibrillator and adrenaline needle injected directly into a patients un-beating heart. There were triumphs and there were disappointments. It was a metaphor for life and something he wanted me to understand.

My father would often make house calls: at nights, on weekends. When he died, I found drawers full of unpaid bills from dozens of patients, of all backgrounds and standing in life.

I hope that my siblings will tell their children these stories of their grandfather. Perhaps knowing him more fully, they do not have my desire, interest or self awareness to recall in such detail.

The Apostle Paul’s disappointment of bearing witness to the resurrected Christ he had never seen was such, that he spent the rest of his life inhabiting and reconstructing. I like to think my desire is akin to his; I collect details as though reassembling broken china.

If nothing else, I can be custodian of those shattered fragments.

Richard Zampella
May 15, 2017