Christmas morning on the most beautiful island that my family so dearly love – Stradbroke Island, Queensland Australia. My grandparents called me and my family to the table and sat us down. At first, I thought that they were just going to give us a big present to say Merry Christmas but what came next was far from a gift. As I was only 12, I didn’t really understand what my grandparent’s were saying, I think a lot of that was due to shock, but as the years went on I started to understand more and more. My grandparents told us that my grandpa had been diagnosed with a non-curable disease called familial amyloidosis, this hereditary disease was going to harm his heart and some of his internal organs, and as the years went on, make him more unrecognisable as his body would start to shut down.
Day by day pieces of his heart would start to get blocked and eventually that last little piece of his heart muscle wall will become blocked, he will take his last breath and one of my best friends will be gone forever. At this point the doctors had told us that he only had 7 years to live but luckily last year he was chosen to be on a compassionate use of a drug that may keep him live longer, so I’m very happy about that. G’pa says what helped the most was getting a diagnosis early.
Unfortunately for my family my grandfather’s brother, my Great Uncle also had this incurable disease and died in November 2017. Seeing my Great Uncle like that was extremely emotional and it made it even sadder to think that this could be my Grandpa in a few years (before the drug started May 2020).
My Grandpa is truly the nicest most caring man you’ll ever meet, he had been in Social Services for many years and along with his 3 kids there was never a time where my grandparents would only ever have his 3 kids in their old Queenslander in my hometown, Roma. He and my Grandma were constantly taking in teenagers that had nowhere else to go, they would feed them and give them somewhere warm to spend the night, sometimes for weeks and even months. Like I was saying before my grandfather truly worked as hard as any man could’ve ever worked and I’m glad that he retired early because he deserved it.
After being diagnosed my grandparents came to the decision to both retire and chose to travel in their old age as they never could afford it in the past with their 3 kids, they loved camping, we still do, so they went on many camping trips. Throughout my mother’s childhood my grandparents didn’t have a lot of money but that didn’t matter, what mattered was that their household was full of love and that was more precious than any dollar amount in the whole world.
My grandparents wanted to travel before my G’pa became too sick, so they sold their little town house and all their belongings. They soon brought a caravan which became named Fried Frog due to a frog getting literally fried in their caravan air conditioning motor, and off they went.
Sometimes they were gone for days, weeks, and months. On their trips around Australia, and on their many cruises, and trips around different parts of the world – I would always get a post card in the mail of them telling me about their travels and I was never worried. I knew I would see my them again, after all, they always came back and they always brought back the coolest presents, they may have even stolen some sort of glass from the nuclear explosions in the sand from Maralinga South Australia on the way, but we don’t spread that around. The thing about my Grandparents is that they have travelled the world and can truly say just like Johnny Cash, one of my Grandfathers favourite singers, that – They’ve Been Everywhere Man! (Originally written by an Australian back in the 1950s about Australia)!
The thing that makes me most upset is the fact that my grandfather wouldn’t even hurt a fly. Why do the worst things always happen to the nicest people? He truly is one of the most kind hearted people I know, along with my grandma, and will forever be the one man in my life that I will be forever thankful for. This man has taught me so many valuable life lessons from how to fish, sharing of favourite songs, that I love too now and how to drive. He has showed me the real meaning of love and how a women should be treated.
I obviously wish that I could keep one of my best friends in my life forever but life just doesn’t work that way, I know the day will come, and I know it will be sad, but at least I can a small amount of his ashes into a special necklace to wear near my heart. I forgot to say earlier that I did a spit test too, with my brother and my mum to see if we had the gene, but we don’t – Hooray! Now that’s a great gift.
Despite being sick he still always has a smile on his face and despite the tears that are sometimes in my eyes he still manages to put a smile on my face. Unlike most girls I don’t wish for the impossible. I don’t wish for all the money in the world, not even gold. I don’t wish for the fanciest car although that 79 series will come one day. I don’t wish to be the most popular girl in school nor have the best score once finishing Grade 12. However, the one wish I do have is for my best friend to walk me down the aisle one day and I pray to God he can let me have my best friend just until then, that would be the best gift G’pa.
(Story by Michaela, Granddaughter of Vince & Terri – written when I was 16. Now aged 18).
Christmas 2014 – Michaela – Australia