The hollow feeling of loss


I had a pretty messed up childhood, one in which I didn't grow up with my own mum and dad but I was fortunate as I stayed with my grandparents. They're Italian and were born in Calabria, Tropea to be exact.

My grandfather owned a fair bit of land on the coast and was a farmer. But the land back then wasn't worth much, the more land you had the more work you had to do. They grew a range of different things but I'd often hear the stories of tomatoes.

My grandparents migrated to Australia in the 1950s when there were waves of Italians coming to Australia for a better life. Sold the land for what little cash it was worth back then and headed over to Australia. He used to say "I'd be a millionaire now if I had of stayed, everyone wants a piece of Tropea". He painted alot of pictures of where he was from.

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Through my grandfather I learned alot not just about life and history but how to do alot of things. He was a tradie and we'd spend hours at a time in the garage just building things, repairing thing's and making old things new again. Til this day I still do alot of my own handy work, his cries of frustration at me always come flooding back. In English there is a word for everything, not so in Italian and multiple things can have the same name, so when you're asked to get something it can become quite confusing.

My funniest memory is when he asked for pliers and I ran in the kitchen and got tongs. Tongs and pliers are called the same thing. It's all about context with Italian and emotion. I think the word in Italian translates to pinchers in English.

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I would have been 15 - 16 when he passed away and I still remember it vividly, or more so feel it. The feeling of emptiness as if a void was instantly created. He'd been diagnosed with cancer and was under going treatment, funny enough today it is a simple surgery but back then not so much was known. He knew he was dieing and it took a few months, in those final months we spent alot of time together, fishing, in the garage, talking. Towards the end it got alot harder as he was bed ridden and didn't want to go to hospital, he was old school. He'd built a life and a home and he planned on dieing there.

That night was like most nights, he lay in bed unable to move, I kissed him goodnight and said I'd see him tomorrow. I remember getting home to my mums as I'd moved in with her. I went to bed and thought about once he got better we'd go fishing again and this time I'd catch something other than a cold.

A few hours passed and my grandmother called to say he'd passed, I didn't believe it right away and we rushed over. We only lived a few blocks away and when we arrived my grandmother was in tears we all sat and cried.

The funeral was a beautiful rememberance of his life and what he had endured, from humble beginings as a farmer to a tradie when he arrived in Australia. People shared stories and I learned more about the man he was. It was hard, hard on everyone, I remember my grandmothers cries and tears "why did you leave me alone, why?".

It's been along time, my grandmother is still alive well into her 80s and she remembers my grandfather everyday, shes got dementia and at times she awaits for him to return from work. She's in a nursing home now but prior I moved in with her to help care for her.

I've never really moved on from his death and I still strive to make him proud, I don't know if there is an after life but I hold onto the hopes that one day we will meet again and I will be able to tell him about everything I've been upto and that he would simply respond with "I know, I've been watching".

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