Rome airport, behind security

Some years ago, when I was living in Naples, I drove to the aiport in Rome to pick up my father, who had come for a visit. Parkinsons had already dimished his strength and he walked with a cane, but he was determined to travel as long as possible. I’d told him to present his passport, get his bags, and follow the crowd through the security doors. I’d see him there. Seemed foolproof.

But I  waited and waited, long after the last Philadelphia flight people had come out and we were deep into Stockholm, Paris, and Cairo flights. This was before cell phones. Had he missed a flight? Some incident? Gotten sick? Worse? It was nearly an hour since his flight had landed. Now in a panic, I decided to slip through the security doors when the airport security guy with a submachine gun wasn’t looking.

And was immediately nabbed. “Signora, what are you doing? You can’t go back there.” I explained about my father. I should be patient, he said, and wait with the others. I said I had been patient, and now I was worrried. “This is a security gate,” he repeated more firmly. “Entry is forbidden.” Glance down at his serious weapon.

I played my last card. “Sir, if you had an old father, who was sick, and alone in a strange country, tired after a long flight, and not speaking the language, what would YOU do?”

He looked at me as if I were an idiot, or more accurately, one of those Americans with no sense of family. “I’d go find him,” he said.

“Will you take me back there?”

“Certainly, signora. Come with me. And don’t worry. We’ll find him.” And we did. He’d presented his passport, gotten his bag, and sat down at the first available seat.

The policeman politely wished my father a pleasant stay and went back to work. Viva Italia!

Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

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“Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, in Under the Same Blue Sky, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

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