ITALY

The Columbus Dispatch - - Front Page - Tam Dal­rym­ple, 69, lives in Clin­tonville.

I ap­plied for sev­eral writ­ing jobs, advertising-type po­si­tions that re­quired the kind of imag­i­na­tion and skill that I hadn’t learned com­pos­ing es­says about the im­por­tance of flow­ers in Vir­ginia Woolf’s nov­els.

While I wrote pa­pers, my col­lege room­mate stud­ied for bi­ol­ogy classes that, be­sides ac­tual knowl­edge of sci­ence, re­quired an ad­di­tional five-to-10 hours a week of lab at­ten­dance. She also at­tended classes and labs on Fri­days, a tra­di­tional day of rest for the English Depart­ment at Ohio State Univer­sity.

When she grad­u­ated, she got a job with a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany in Ann Ar­bor, Michi­gan, and, af­ter a few months of un­suc­cess­ful job hunt­ing, I per­suaded my par­ents — and her — to let me visit to look for work.

I found a job, al­beit not the job of my dreams — and cer­tainly not of my par­ents’ dreams — as a com­pan­ion to a woman with quadriple­gia from an in­jury she’d suf­fered 10 years ear­lier. She’d gone to col­lege in Colorado, more to ski than study, and had ended up fly­ing through the sun­roof of an out-of-control Volk­swa­gen on the way to the slopes. Fate is a funny thing. Sally was a 30-yearold un­der­grad­u­ate ma­jor­ing in art who needed some­one to pro­vide per­sonal care, cook, clean house and take her to classes, most of which were on the sec­ond floor of Tap­pan Hall, one of the old­est and least-ac­ces­si­ble build­ings on the Univer­sity of Michi­gan cam­pus.

Sally, it turned out, was tak­ing a course in Re­nais­sance art that re­quired a six-week stay in Florence, Italy. I earned a free trip and a We in­vite read­ers of all ages to sub­mit a per­sonal es­say of mus­ings or re­flec­tions for First Per­son. The guide­lines:

A range of styles and sub­jects (but no po­lit­i­cal/ opin­ion pieces) is en­cour­aged, with a pref­er­ence for con­tent of a topi­cal na­ture.

Your writ­ing must be orig­i­nal and pre­vi­ously un­pub­lished. It can be funny or se­ri­ous, lo­cal or global, but it must be your own.

A sub­mis­sion should run no longer than 18 col­umn inches (about

free class. We stayed in a pen­sione that is now a very fancy ho­tel on Via de Tornabuoni, where the promised el­e­va­tor did not ac­com­mo­date a wheel­chair.

Italy was not built for wheel­chairs. (In 1972, the Univer­sity of Michi­gan wasn’t built for wheel­chairs, ei­ther; ev­ery day, we raced a Viet­nam vet­eran to what I still main­tain was the only hand­i­capped park­ing space on cam­pus.)

In Florence, Sally and I rat­tled around an­cient streets — and once event rat­tled down the an­cient steps of Santa Croce when we were hur­ried away from Giotto di Bon­done’s 14th-cen­tury fres­coes by a nun ea­ger to close the place for siesta.

On a one-day ex­cur­sion to Siena, we toured the Palazzo Publico and had lunch on the Pi­azza del Campo where she sat — of course, she sat — cal­cu­lat­ing the fall line should her chair start to roll to­ward the cen­ter of the pi­azza.

Then it was off to the Duomo of Siena, which we reached just as a thun­der­storm knocked out the elec­tric­ity to the cathe­dral. Luck­ily, the Duomo and its mu­seum were de­signed to work per­fectly well, at least in the day­time, with­out lights, and our pro­fes­sor was able to ex­plain why Duc­cio di Buonin­segna’s im­ages were as flat as pan­cakes 650 words). No pay is pro­vided. No pub­li­ca­tion guar­an­tee is granted.

All text is sub­ject to edit­ing.

The writer should be iden­ti­fied by name, age, oc­cu­pa­tion, home­town and phone num­ber. Any­one se­lected for pub­li­ca­tion will be asked to sup­ply a pho­to­graph or have a photo taken.

A sub­mis­sion used be­comes the prop­erty of The Dis­patch; it can­not be re­pro­duced else­where with­out our per­mis­sion.

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com­pared with Giotto’s.

We re­turned to Florence and, even­tu­ally, to the States. I left my job with her to at­tend classes full time, and she found an­other com­pan­ion.

Back in Columbus, I took what I con­sid­ered my first “real” job, where I met a man re­cently out of the Army, al­though he’d spent the pre­vi­ous sum­mer in Siena. His col­lege ma­jor, it turns out, had been Ital­ian, a de­gree even less prac­ti­cal than my own.

What a co­in­ci­dence, we thought, al­though I ex­plained that I’d been in Siena only one day.

“Maybe,” he said, giv­ing a pretty good idea of the kind of guy he was, “Maybe you saw me there.”

More likely, I told him, was that he saw me — the only per­son in Tus­cany push­ing a wheel­chair.

“You were in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo the day the lights went out,” he said.

He and a friend had spent the af­ter­noon fol­low­ing us around the mu­seum, mak­ing whis­pered fun of our pro­fes­sor’s aca­demic de­scrip­tions of 13th­cen­tury al­tar pieces.

Joe and I were mar­ried for 38 years be­fore he died last sum­mer.

Fate is a funny thing.

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