By Neomi Gestano
Thousands of feet in the air brought me distress, but it wasn’t because of the never-ending sky below. The more I became agitated in my seat, the less it helped with the countless emotions that bombarded me at once.
My Grandpa was suddenly gone and the last words he would have heard from me would have been my explanation of how to solve a Rubix cube, and this was when he and Grandma visited us in Melbourne the year before. The possibility that those words being the last never crossed my mind. I would never be able to tell him how much he meant to me.
I didn’t have the best relationship with him. The indifference that accompanied adolescence influenced me to seem harsh, easily annoyed and frustrated with him in the smallest, most unreasonable circumstances. The distance between countries didn’t help either, depriving me of time when I could learn more about him and his dreams. The limited time I did have was spent on talking about myself, never once thinking that I would never get the opportunity to know him more. It was too late.
We had flown to where he had passed away, the funeral preparations being frantic last-minute decisions since we were scheduled to fly back to Australia in several days. It hardly left time to mourn, everyone was so invested in every detail of the funeral reception that the sadness had been shoved at the back of everyone’s minds. I sat there and watched everything happen; the overwhelming silence that was almost palpable, the sobs of anger and sadness echoing off the walls of the venue and the toll of everyone’s loss etched into their features as his casket was lowered into the soil.
We were encouraged to say goodbye to him before he was gone for good, bodies starting to rack with grief as the tears became impossible to choke back. My cousin’s tiny hand was encased in mine as she pulled me up to the casket, the edges of her lips sagging even further as she started to process that this would be the last time she would see him. She then proceeded to go on a short rant about how much she loved him before she was ushered to give me some space to also say my goodbyes.
I stepped up into the now vacant space, the image of him lying peacefully becoming blurred as the onslaught of tears intercepted my vision. The same man that had taught me how to fish, build a barbecue and had loved the sea was gone. I would never get to scold him for painting the wrong wall or banter with him when there was no fish attached to his hook. I would never get to hear him tell stories of his encounters with pirates or the respect and responsibility that came with being the captain of a ship. My hands shook as the realisation clawed at my throat, regret consuming me.
Instead of saying sorry though, I said the only three words that I knew would matter to him: “I love you”.
The ceremony soon ended, families grasping onto each other as they walked back to the venue, afraid that their loved one might disappear next. It was moments like these that make you realise how much we took simple things for granted, never investing a second thought for we dismissed it with the impression that there was still tomorrow. Tomorrow is never guaranteed though, so as I walked through the graveyard I made a promise not only to myself, but to him.
Now, every time I call my family members here and in the Philippines, I always ensure that they know how much I love them. I remind my parents that every single day. When there is no fish on the end of the rod, I try not to become frustrated, instead I try harder. When a painting has a flaw, I don’t see it as imperfection. I find a solution instead of allowing annoyance to overtake my emotions as it generally would.
I started looking at life through my Grandpa’s eyes, for if I could never get the opportunity to know him, carrying his childlike wonder and compassion would be the next best thing.
(Neomi Gestano is 14 years old, an incoming Year 9 student at Nossal High School Berwick. She devotes her time to reading classic novels, playing basketball, and painting. She was 1-year-old when she left the Philippines for Australia).
Featured image: Portrait of Lolo Felix made by Neomi Gestano as a gift to her mum, Kristhine.
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