At the age of 60, Father found his soul mate and adventure partner in 30-year-old Liliana. He also found himself ostracized by his siblings, and his friends alike “She’s a gold digger from the dark side of life.” They all chimed.
For his neighbors and the rest of the world he’s a “A dirty old man.”
But Liliana keeps coming, and Father would rather be rejected by the entire world than be without her. From a very poor background, Liliana knows struggles; she’s been through many hot burning hells of her own. Her mother died giving birth to her. To escape an abusive, alcoholic Father, she eloped at 15 and a year later gave birth to her first baby, a seemingly healthy baby boy. Her husband, a railroad man, worked hard, drank even harder, and brought home no bacon.
At 20, Liliana buries her 4 years old son when he unexpectedly dies in her arms, then she ends her marriage. Second time around she marries an army officer and gives birth to her second child, again a boy. Her new husband provides for her and their child but his demanding job makes Liliana lonely. When her second son dies at the age of 3, alone and destitute, she finds solace with the wrong crowd. She begins to drink, and by the age of 26, she is bitter and “cursed,” twice divorced and with two children dead in her hug. She has no education, and to survive she cleans houses. Father employs her and their romance goes full bloom.
Sad story, Liliana…
Dark complexion and bright smile she’s curvy, and petit she laughs easy and starts a fight even easier. She rejuvenates Father. Cleaning his house and yard she glues to his eyes and soul. They become intimate and business partners. As peddlers, they travel to Turkey, Poland, Russia, and China turning into a profitable team. She acquires her own apartment and saves to open a small newspaper stand. When Father’s in New York Liliana watches his property, and keeps everything in order. Father has traveled between New York and Iasi for years. He likes America but loves Romania, and would not want to die or be laid to rest anywhere but alongside his parents in the Eternitate [Eternity] graveyard in the old side of Iasi.
Liliana makes it easier for Father to come to New York and be with us and one fall, he entrusts Liliana with the key to his house and his stable now turned wine cellar. A dark square room with steady-temperature where tarmac sealed bottles and a 200-liter redwood barrel Merlot are stored for aging. Father invests large amounts of money pride and patience in his wine making recipes. Every fall, he travels to vineyards far and out in search of Concord, Muscat and Hamburg grapes, he then handpicks for his yearly Bacchus collection. To leave Liliana in charge of his Merlot wealth means total trust or blind love.
And Father doesn't trust anyone.
Two in the morning the house phone rings. I pick up and an unknown voice asks for Dumitru. I must repeat it to Father for he’s hard of hearing. Startle-eyed, he flings his arms in the air, moans, and gets up in slow motion. I hand him the phone, and I’m about to go back to bed when I hear him grunt and lament in tears. Alarmed, I sit next to him until he hangs up.
“Liliana died! She died, she’s dead!” No, she barely turned 40! Father weeps and splutters, pain suffocating him.
The next evening at JFK airport my heart follows his tall silhouette until dazed and disoriented it fades through customs.
Two days later, I call to check on him. His voice sorrow–satiated, sounds gruffer than ever and my mind pictures him lighting up a chain, gulping mugs of black coffee, and forgetting to eat.
Story has it that Liliana threw a party in his house invited friends and neighbors.
Red wine is poured from Father’s drums until the night hours turned small and Liliana was having a ball. Loud and bubbly, she cheered with every sip of aroma packed Merlot. She nipped and puffed up two packs of Marlboro. To entertain her guests Liliana starts speaking when suddenly off her chair she thuds to the floor. The hollers shakes the windowpanes and Liliana's still on the floor. The laughter continues as guests assume her fall is part of an amusing act. A while later they all panic and clamor over her unresponsive body.
Someone calls an ambulance. Paramedics arrive after the guests help themselves to Father’s belongings. They pronounce her dead on the scene, and her body is transported to the city morgue.
The autopsy revealed that Liliana’s 40 years life was a miracle, for she suffered from congenital heart disease—the same disease that killed her two sons before the age of 5.
Father buries her in the same casket with his heart, and three months later his shadow arrives back at JFK. I’m shocked at how much weight he’s lost and at the sorrow carved deep into his hollow eyes. He was never to recovered from this loss.