(Continued) Filippo knows how to make himself loved by easily establishing friendships and, as already reported, he is very empathetic. The image of the marshal is often (was often) assimilated to a subject of few words, strict and perhaps a little despotic.
There are so many ways to be a military man and, depending on how you approach yourself, you have the appreciation and consent of your subordinates. He seems to be doing great.
Suddenly, the cook’s two cats entered the canteen, stationed behind the kitchen, and came to visit us to fetch something to eat. As soon as I saw them I got the idea! A cat could have walked through the pipe on the leash type cable, I mentioned this to the boys who initially laughed about it. I elaborated on the idea and after lunch we spoke with the cook who was an old Alpine soldier. Laughing he authorized us.
With the string I tied a knot in the string and I passed the other end around his belly without tightening too much, I slipped it into the hole. In a few seconds he came out on the other side where “his military friend” was waiting for him with a slice of meat that the cook had provided us with. The laughs we had during the preparation of this operation and the final result cannot be described. The cat in the military man’s arms was calm, he ate his slice and was promoted for special merits to the rank of corporal. The elders were intrigued and, pretending not to notice, they observed everything.
Inspections and logistics
Almost every day there were visits to the nodal centers by commanders at various levels, general officers, colleagues for supplies of petrol or other materials, everyone liked to pay a visit to the nodal centers and if they had time they also stopped to eat. After two days the battalion commander came to see us and, while waiting for lunch, he wanted to take a tour of the driveway of the rest home. I pointed to where the cable had been placed; he looked at me and immediately asked me how I managed to pass the wire inside that tube, I answered him laughing with a cat. He laughed, he didn’t believe it. He was convinced at lunch when he saw them in our room.
An available and waltzing lieutenant
I had understood that the guests of the structure liked to dance to the sound of the accordion and, having in my platoon a boy from Frosinone who was the regional accordion champion, I put him in my crew and took him to the nodal centre. I spoke to the director and asked her if, after having finished installing the radio links, she would agree to let the young conscript play for them for an hour. At 5.30 the show started.
Afterwards, for more than a few afternoons, I was forced to act as gentleman for a few dances. One day I asked the management if there was the possibility, at the end of the exercise, to organize a party for the elderly; the management accepted very willingly and made the tavern available to us, which was a beautiful and spacious place.
During the greetings, as had happened the previous year, 90% of the elderly told me that the TV in the rooms didn’t work, they couldn’t see the channels anymore. They asked me if I could fix them. The afternoon of the following day I lost three hours retuning the televisions which were all out of frequency.
I omit the thanks and the gifts they gave me with candies and chocolates they had prepared the night before. The experience made me think a lot for all the personal stories that some of them told me. The following year, knowing that I had to return to this place for the same exercise, I organized myself better.
The evening dance
The end of the exercise arrived and, as agreed with the director, we began preparations for the evening of dancing. In the afternoon I had the manageress take me to pick up two cakes and pastries I had ordered.
After dinner I left two military guards with the promise that after three hours I would send change and with the other boys, including the musician, I went to the party. Many elderly people and some of their assistants were present. The happiness for this party could be seen in their happy smiles.
The musician began to play and we all began to dance but, due to the lack of good men and the large number of ladies present, many of them danced together. The former Alpine cook and a military man and I were the only ones who knew how to dance tangos, waltzes and tarantellas, with the consequence that all the old women wanted us three as knights. Even if the soldiers didn’t know how to dance, they were forced by the elderly women. Even Don Severino, who was a guest priest of the house, was occasionally involved in the dances.
The musician was very good, he played all kinds of danceables and, to make fun of me, once he finished a piece, he would attack another one, without leaving me a moment’s rest. The ladies took turns and I was forced to dance up to a quarter of an hour in line while the musician laughed off in amusement. I wonder if the change was then made?
We finished at 1am. The elderly women were all happy and enthusiastic for having spent a nice evening, different from the usual. Some told me that the music reminded them of their youth. On the morning of departure, to say goodbye, we stopped with the vehicles in the square where almost all the elderly were waiting for us. We greeted them one by one and with long and affectionate hugs. The farewell lasted about an hour and I had to promise that I would return the following year and so it was for another three years.
All the exercises done in this place I remember with a lot of nostalgia, both for the kindness that everyone showed us, and for the memories of these elders who made me think a lot. These are experiences that leave their mark forever, on the other hand when you work isolated it is very important to establish relationships of respect and friendship with the inhabitants or people who are close to you. Leaving a good memory over time always pays off.
Lieutenant Filippo tells me that his maximum life experience was felt around the age of sixty, today he is just over 70. Advancing age and the memories of that retirement home probably lead him today to reliving his brilliant years in the military with a certain nostalgia and awareness of the passing of time. Maybe he doesn’t realize that he’s still a brilliant man with the energy and ingenuity to make a name for himself senior with impeccable results.
Read first part – The lieutenant’s tales: “Dry-Iron” exercise