Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Intangible Nature of the Dead

Curinga, Calabria (Andrea Marutti)

Today marks the 8th week since I submitted to the USCIS my second, not first, online search request form for immigration information about my grandfather, Carmelo Orlando. Now that we have reached the 8th week point, I feel I am in my right to politely ask for a status update on the search. And that I did today by email.

If you remember what happened the first time, I was sent a letter after about 8 weeks of waiting for a response. The letter I received informed me that they had found a file for Antonio Orlando. For a moment, I stood there looking at the letter thinking, “Did my grandfather have another name?” Then it hit me that I was dealing with a government agency, and clearly and a state employee who didn’t even bother to do a spell check before sending me the response. I was fuming.

So, now that I have sent that email to USCIS, I am nervously waiting for another response, hoping they don't tell me they did a search for Guido Orlando, not Carmelo.

What could possibly go wrong this time? They are going to find the files, right? And they are going to send me the information I need so I can proceed with this investigation I started back in 2007. Of course they are. How many times could they possibly get it wrong?

I need a pep talk. I have entered into a deep valley of doubt. I come back to the same sad conclusion that goes against everything this journey has been about. I think, and for what am I doing all this? My grandfather is deceased. I will never meet him. No matter how hard I try to give life to this blood relative of mine, I don’t have a picture, I don’t have relatives who remember him, and the few vital records that I’ve looked at endlessly have now lost their novelty. And when I get to Curinga in October? Will I be disappointed that Carmelo is not there waiting for me at the threshold of the house where he was born? Will I be ok with the fact that it’s just me going back to my grandfather’s village and he and my mom are not there to share the joy?

It’s important for me to share my frustration here. I don’t want to discourage others who might be thinking about getting their Italian citizenship or doing genealogy research. I just want to be honest about the highs and lows. If I document only the high points of the journey, I would be misleading you. Hopefully your process will be an easier one than mine has been.

Well, tomorrow is another day. Another day for hope. Another day closer to the time when I will come face to face with my Calabrian roots.

Circolo Calabrese