Franco, the sound of your name brings so much joy to my life. Hard not to smile as I hear your name ring in my ears. Franco, my Italian uncle who was a world class chef.
As a kid, going to Franco's restaurants was a special occasion for the family. My mother even got me a heart shaped purse just for when I go to eat at Franco’s restaurant. Every time I walked in to that restaurant, I remember thinking to myself, this is what it must feel like to be a princess. I was sure of it. Even when I was just a girl, Franco always treated me as a young lady, and that feeling always made me feel so special. He always made me feel as though I was someone important, and that feeling he gave me never changed.
Every year when I was home from school for the summer, Franco will take me out to lunch just the two of us. Over delicious Italian food, he will ask me about school, my interest, boys, and always remind me how beautiful and special I was. I was always bad at taking compliments and I brushed it off just out of my own discomfort but deep down inside I loved it. On one of our lunch dates, I got up to go to the bathroom, and without missing a beat, he also got up. I was so confused to why he too got up, so I reminded him I was only going to the ladies room. He looks at me shaking his head in disbelief and said “Oh Lila-san, a true gentlemen always gets up when the lady gets up, what kind of boys are you around?!” I guess I was around barbarians by his standards. I always wondered why he was so generous towards me. Maybe he enjoyed time with me because he missed his daughter who was in Italy, or maybe he was just simply board in Japan, but maybe just maybe he knew I was just another insecure girl who needed to be reminded that I was special. Or maybe I am just trying to interpret things because of the sadness that I feel in my heart right now. But one thing that can not be questioned is how he always made me feel. He brought the best out of me and the best out of my family. Laughter and glass clinking were the background music of our time together. I felt lost today, I knew with his condition the end was near, but still it felt as a shocking and sad as another part of my childhood chipped away. So tonight, I decided to have a toast in your honor: "To life, to you, and thank you for teaching me food is always better shared, and thank you for teaching mama how to cook Italian food. You will be remembered in the Japantons family for generations to come.”
Ciao Franco, Sending you two kisses, one on each cheek just like you taught me.
Lila Consuelo Anton