The Good Son

On May 12, 1935, Giulia was being served up the queen’s treatment: a surprise breakfast in bed and now, surrounded by flowers and candies, she leaned back with her feet propped up on a fluffy ottoman in the parlor of her lovely Los Angeles home.

Her doorway was abuzz with activity. Friends and neighbors were dropping in with presents in their arms and kisses on their lips. And her children were arriving one by one. Soon, seven of them would be there. This Mother’s Day had almost not happened and everyone was making sure it was a special one for her. Her heart attack last September had left her weak and ruined her sight and hearing and they were sure that the only thing keeping her going was the love she had for her family. Especially her baby. He’d always taken care of his mama like nobody else. He never forgot her. She was so proud of him.
“Nicola,” she called out to her husband, “Is my bambino here yet?”

Nicola approached her from behind and placed one hand on her shoulder and crossed himself with the other. His eyes watered at the mention of their son.
“Cucciola mia… I’m sorry. Russ called earlier... He’s still making that picture in England but sends his love.”

Giulia sighed softly.
“Maybe for Christmas…”

But Russ wouldn’t make it home that Christmas. Or the next. Popular singer and actor Russ Columbo had died in a freak accident while Giulia was still recovering in the hospital from her heart attack. Afraid that the news would kill her, her family decided to keep it a secret. Russ would be forevermore on “an extended European trip.”
Ten years on, Giulia still hadn’t seen her son, but her dying words were "Tell Russ I am so proud..."


Enbrethiliel said...


This is such a grey area. If I were the mother, I'd want to know the truth, even if it gives me another heart attack. (If it's my time, then it's my time. But I'm fatalistic in that way.)

On the other hand, if I were the children, I'd probably keep the story going--first out of fear that she would die, but later on, out of a sense of fun. I mean, ten whole years of storytelling??? How could I not? =P

I'd probably tell her the truth only if she got really upset about Russ never visiting or calling, and started to think of him as "the bad son."

cyurkanin said...

There's always been that argument about if people should know the truth about their illness, doctors not telling patients about incurable cancer, etc. but for this to have gone on for so long about a death was pretty unique.

They had to censor every single newspaper that went into the house, not to mention coach every new person who might be entering the house, had to play only records and never listen to a radio station that had a live host, etc. Also, Russ wrote her a letter from London EVERY SINGLE WEEK for those ten years (first the husband did it and then the siblings) and sent her a check from his "movie earnings" every month which was actually the checks from the life insurance company. His funeral was enormous with thousands of people and celebrities on hand.

Such effort required by all just amazes me.

Enbrethiliel said...


I should really read your links before commenting, because I thought the reason they had been able to pull it off was that Guilia had become slightly senile! That they succeeded for a whole decade amazes me, too!

Prixie said...

For some reason, I found this really touching. A mother's love, hey...

cyurkanin said...

Hi Prixie, I did too. For a few reasons, she reminded me of my own mom.

Jocelyn said...

Very poignant. Reminds me a bit of my own family in some ways. Grief and sorrow are lifelong companions. I can understand how her children wished to spare her of their company.

cyurkanin said...

Hi Jocelyn, glad to see you over here and thanks! I think most of us can relate in some way to this, we all have the same basic fragility when stripped of the layers of protection we wear. And I also think just as much of the fragility can be applied to the children in continuing the charade (not just concern for the mother) so as to not have to bear the grief within themselves at seeing their mother saddened.