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Today is the twenty second anniversary of my Nonno’s passing. It seems so long ago now, and it’s almost two thirds of my lifetime ago, but there are some things that stay in memory better than others.
Every year this day comes and I think of him especially, as I will in four days’ time on his birthday. He would have been seventy-five that year.
Today I have been thinking extra hard about him, as the weather is one of those associated memories. It’s been raining, both here in Brisbane and down the coast where I grew up, and where he lived. There is flooding around parts of Brisbane, and in Lismore they are bracing themselves.
Twenty two years ago, in Lismore, they were recovering from the “Mother’s Day Floods”. My Nonno lived out of town, and as many older Italians do, had ignored the symptoms of the illness that had had been developing. As the flood waters were rising, Nonno was getting sicker. As the roads became blocked, it grew urgent. He was ferried to the hospital via SES emergency boat. His photo made front page of the local paper, which probably annoyed him more than anything, but he would have been too ill to bother too much.
I tried to find that photo online tonight, but have so far come up with nothing. I’m not even sure I want to. The thought of finding that photo scares me a little, and makes me a little sad. It’s the last mental image I have of my Nonno. He spent some time in hospital, but I wasn’t allowed to see him. Understandable, in retrospect. I was twelve. He would have been weak, pale, attached to whatever tubes and machines they would have hooked up, and a shadow of his usual, larger than life, loud, passionate self. Much better to remember him as the strong, loud, sometimes scary, always lovable, grandfather in the photos and memories that remain.
I don’t remember the date he went to hospital. I do remember that he survived his surgery, then suffered a heart attack in recovery. I guess the strain was too much. I remember being picked up after school, asking my parents how it went. I remember them being annoyed, hurried, telling me to get in the car before asking questions. I don’t remember if he was already gone by then. I don’t even remember if it was still raining that day.
The things that stay in your mind…
Thinking tonight of all people who are dealing with the wild weather, especially any who are sick and agonising about going out in the weather to seek help or treatment. It’s scary at the best of times, let alone on a night like tonight.