I use this blog as a soap box to preach (ahem... to talk :-) about subjects that interest me.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Patrizio Galli

Only yesterday I discovered that Patrizio died almost one year ago, on August 20, 2010. I had lost contact with him some years ago and, until yesterday, my Internet searches had found nothing about him.

He was a colleague and a friend.  The picture was taken in the Summer of 1983, on the Via Appia Antica, near Rome.  I know, it's a bit old, but it is the only one I have of him.  He is the one sitting on the column.  The nice lady standing beside me is Monika, my wife.

He was a larrikin with an unstoppable sense of humour and an irreverent view on everything.  I like to remember him as he appears on this picture, with a smile on his face.

But last August a side of him emerged that would have better remained buried in the deepest recesses of his mind.  In the hallway of his two-storey house near Rome, while his two teenage boys were sleeping upstairs, he armed his Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum revolver and shot five times his wife of twenty-six years, Catia.  He then directed the gun towards himself and put an end to his own life.  He was sixty-two.  Catia was forty-seven.

It was the children, awoken by the gun shots, who discovered them.  They immediately called for help, but it was too late.  I cannot begin to imagine how they felt and how they could inform their three older sisters.

That morning, like many other times in the recent past, a heated argument had exploded between Catia and Patrizio.  They were separating.  Perhaps some financial difficulties didn’t help, but I can only speculate on the reasons for the conflicts that ultimately led to such a tragedy.

Before Patrizio met Catia, he had had many fleeting relationships and seemed destined to remain an eternal bachelor.  But Catia changed him.  He became a devoted husband and a patient father, who never laid a hand on any member of his family.

He couldn’t face the prospect of losing the love of his life.  But how could he possibly do what he did, knowing that his children would have to live with this tragedy for the rest of their lives?  Ultimately, every homicide/suicide is an act of selfishness and an affirmation of power.  And yet, I only feel sadness and pain.  I cannot bring myself to hate him for what he did.  I feel as if he had been hit by a sudden sickness that in a second wiped out his rational mind.

The last time I saw him was in 2003.  He showed me his collection of weapons, including the S&W.  I still cannot grasp the fact that I held in my hand the weapon that a few years later would be used to kill.  It was the revolver made famous by Clint Eastwood in the “Dirty Harry” movies.  When it was built, it was claimed to be the most powerful hand gun in existence, and it was a monster. I have fired a .38 and a nine-millimetre, but they felt like toys compared to that .44 Magnum.

Besides being a fun person to be with, Patrizio was also one of the two or three best computer programmers I have ever met.  Writing programs is like authoring prose: some people come up with lines that need little editing, sharp and clean.  Patrizio was one of those.  He was also one of the very few people I have ever met capable of reading a computer manual from cover to cover.  And he was a natural, as he had never had any formal training in computer science.

Death is always shocking, but these deaths will accompany me for a while.  I don’t believe in an afterlife, but I still feel compelled to say: Farewell my friend. Suffering is over.

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