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Calcagni’s Memoirs. Illness and a Thought, in Great Secrecy (14)

View from the top of St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome. Click for attribution and to enlarge

14th excerpt from the memoirs of Carlo Calcagni – see the original text in Italian -, a true Roman born almost one and a half century ago. Read all excerpts posted so far in English or in Carlo’s original Italian text


My mother had looked after and cured her husband since he was 50, because of a chronic catarrh of the bladder and urine retention that also caused him perineum abscesses.

He, who held in low esteem doctors & medicines, refused any treatment and only when he could not take it anymore and was forced to urinate lest his bladder would burst, he went to an emergency ward where he got syringed or cut, depending on the circumstances: then with open wounds he was imprudent enough to get back home on foot.

“Nature must follow its course when an imminent danger of death has been avoided.”

I remember having gone through all the hospitals of Rome in order to accompany my father to the various emergency wards. He used to stay a few hours, then he started shouting so he was discharged.

[…] Had my father taken a bit of care of himself he could have turned 100, since at 70, when he died, he still had the arteries of a young man. And he suffered no other inconvenience than this urine retention […] which was his continuous worry, his fixation, so that when […] he heard someone say “that man is very ill” he asked:

“Can he micturate?”
“Nothing serious then.”

Mum was at times ill because of that blessed liver of hers but he didn’t worry since my mother suffered no bladder inconvenience.

“Nothing to worry about,” said my father, “such things have no real consequences. What is fundamental is to be able to urinate, like that, naturally, happily.”

The Church of San Francesco a Ripa, in Trastevere. Click for attribution

A Thought, in Great Secrecy

When I, as a higher-level clerk, was better set up financially the idea came to my mind to rent a piano so that my father could enjoy himself a bit given his very great passion for music.

My father got wind of it and objected, saying:

“Tell Carlo not to bring the piano here otherwise I will p*** into it.”

Much perplexed as I was by this very strange eventuality, I however decided to try and, taken the necessary arrangements with the shopkeeper, I had the piano arrive in great secrecy to our house, and closed it into a room.

My father came home and went to bed at 9 o’clock as usual, without having seen the piano.

When I arrived home at night I said to my mother:

“How did it go?”
“All’s well. He didn’t notice anything yet.”

At about 5 am, however, we are awakened by discreet, very much discreet piano chords. We get up to our great surprise and approach the piano room in our nightdresses. There we see my father who, in his nightdress too, was blissfully tickling the piano keys.

He had not p*** into it … my battle was won, to the great delight of the poor man who was in truth very much pleased by my thought and my boldness.

All Efforts were Hopeless

My father died of a fever, as a result of absorption, that had been dragging on for several days, but disaster was caused by a pneumonic fact, as it usually happens. I was nursing him that night and I perceived the end approaching by the fact that he, almost in a coma, did not call Rachele anymore, but his mother … mamma mia, mamma mia […]

He passed away peacefully, assisted by the comforts of religion and by a special blessing from the Holy Father. He had confessed himself a few days earlier.


On the 23rd of September 1909 Il Giornale d’Italia published this obituary notice in the local news:

“Count Calcagni’s death, General Brigadier of the Pope’s noble guards.

This morning (Wednesday 22nd, 4:20 AM) Count Giovanni Calcagni, retired Brigadier of his Holiness’ noble guards, died in Rome. He was one of the most respected and characteristic figures of the Roman Catholic patriciate.

Count Calcagni was a likable gentleman of the old school: although seventy-year-old he still retained an exceptionally vigorous body which led him not to care about the assaults of the illness which has now brought him to the grave. His health had rapidly worsened in the last few days until all efforts to save him became hopeless.

He passed away assisted by the comforts of religion and by a special blessing that the Pontiff wanted to send him.

Although Count Calcagni had retired several years earlier from the active life that he had led as a result of his duties at the Papal Court, his demise however will be felt with deep regret by all who could appreciate the rectitude of his character and the originality of his spirit.

A Requiem Mass will be celebrated in honour of the extinct in the Parish Church of S. Francesco a Ripa at 10 AM. Our deep condolences go to the desolate family.”

Original text in Italian


Related posts:

Calcagni’s Memoirs. Poverty and Father’s Funeral in Trastevere (4)


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