“We must go on because we can’t go back” Robert Louis Stevenson
Facing the black box, I can’t help but think back to ten years ago when I first came to my mum’s family in Savaii. I was only seven years old at the time, but I still remember that day as clearly as if it was yesterday.
As soon as we got off the plane and through security, me, my brother and my father were ushered into a taxi by my Mom so that we could go straight to the wharf as it was the crowded time of the year. When we got to the Mulifanua wharf, sure enough it was filled with a lot of people. My mother bought the tickets for the ferry and we waited. My one-year-old sister started wandering around the benches with my four-year-old brother right behind her. I never took my eyes off them, and neither did Mom.
But as soon as the ferry arrived, my sister fell asleep and only woke up when we got on the bus at Salelologa. The bus ride was very long and my dad kept joking that my mom’s village is at the other end of Savaii. But when we finally arrived, the first thing I saw was sand everywhere, in front of people’s houses, in front of the church, even on the tar sealed road. Then I saw Aunty Tia, my mom’s youngest sister walking towards us, smiling, she took the other bags, patted my brother’s head and took my hand, we started toward the house. Inside was an old man who if he wasn’t black and big, I would have said that he was Chinese because I could not see his pupils, even when he was not smiling.
My mother hugged him and Aunty Tia told me to walk up to hug him, my grandpa. After we all hugged and embraced, even my dad, we sat down to give thanks and ate together. My grandpa kept looking at us while we were eating and kept scraping food onto my plate, and that’s how we became best friends. When my parents went to work, they only came back at six in the evening on the last bus, so it was only me, Aunty Tia, Rita and JT with Grandpa Tavita the whole day. My sister and brother were stuck with my aunty while I hung out with Grandpa. Our schedule was very neat. We would wake up at ten and eat breakfast, mainly crackers from the store nearby and cocoa. After that, Grandpa would go to get the cards and we would play the whole day. Other times, he would sing while strumming his left hand on the guitar strings which was very cool for me. Then there was lunch where he would always scoop his food onto my plate. Other days, Grandpa would go to a village meeting, so I stayed home, while Aunty Tia would figure out when it would end, then tell me to go to Grandpa, so we could walk back to the house together, I loved holding his hand, not only was it warm, but it was also chubby too but one thing that stood out was his thumb nail which was very long and so hard that you would need a saw to cut it. In the evening, when my parents came home, we would gather around and Grandpa would pray, and after dinner he would sit facing my grandma’s grave and smoke his cigarette.
Even when I was enrolled in the village’s primary school and attended there every day, he would always remember to put food away for me when I came home. He never forgot my birthday, and would always buy chocolate ice cream for me as it was my favourite. I was always hanging around him and he would tell me a lot of stories about when he was a young kid.
One thing about Grandpa was that he was a total jokester. One time when we were eating, he farted, and when I pointed at him, he laughed and said it was the ghost. He never missed any of my prize giving sin my whole primary education level. He was always there when I looked down from the stage holding my prize, and he was always smiling. Afterwards, we would always give thanks together and have a feast to celebrate, and Grandpa would always scrape more food onto my plate even if Mom said ‘No,”
Even when I got into high school, he was always there for me, doing everything I wanted and spoiling me rotten which is not what my mom always says. He would always allow me to watch television even if it was time for exams. However, at the end of my first year in high school, my aunt in New Zealand wanted Grandpa to go there to live with her as it would be more convenient for his health, as the hospitals there are much better than here. Grandpa agreed reluctantly, because it was true, he was getting old, and he needed the best medical assistance. He went but still promised that he would always be there at my prize giving, no matter what.
However, the following year, the Covid broke out so Grandpa couldn’t come so he video called and watched my prize giving from New Zealand. This went on for three years, so I was excited when in my final year at high school, Grandpa called and said that he will be coming for my graduation. I was over the moon and I worked hard throughout the whole year, so he would be proud of me.
But on the day that Grandpa would arrive, my aunty called and said that Grandpa couldn’t come because he was sick. I told her that was okay, it’s no big deal even though deep inside, I felt a bite of disappointment.
A day before the prize giving, Grandpa called and Mom tried to give me the phone, but I did not want to talk to him at all, thus I told him that I was not feeling good and that I should lie down. So I went and slept. On the day of my graduation, I was excited to graduate even though my heart felt heavy because I knew that it was not the trophy I had worked so hard for. But to see my Grandpa smiling and telling me face to face that he was proud of me. The day went by like a buzz, and finally it was time for the graduating class’s prizes. When my name was called and I finally walked up to the stage, when I faced my mom she was taking a video of me, and beside her was Grandpa. I smiled and gave my speech cheerfully, never taking my eyes off Grandpa who was still cheering me on. When the event was finished, I weaved my way around families who were hugging their kids to go where Grandpa was sitting, when my mom met me halfway, hugging me. I pulled out of the hug and still continued to where he sat. I saw him looking at me, crying and smiling at the same time, and then he stood up and walked out the door. I ran and yelled, "Grandpa, wait, where are you going? Wait for me!”
But when I got outside, he was nowhere to be seen. I ran to the other side of the hall, still looking and calling this time. People kept looking at me but I didn’t care, I just wanted to know where my Grandpa went, when my mom called me. I looked back at her and saw her wiping her tears, clutching her phone, and my dad standing not far off with my siblings looking as pale as ghosts. My smile faded. I walked up to them, “Mom, what’s wrong? And where’s Grandpa? I saw him walk outside and I still can’t find him.”
My mom was shocked, and told me to sit down first. Then she showed me her phone, it was a video call with my aunt who was also crying and showed me my grandpa lying on the hospital bed with his eyes closed shut.
I was taken aback, “But I saw Grandpa here. I saw him and he was smiling at me.” I stuttered as fresh tears fell onto my cheeks. My mom pulled me into a hug but I still didn’t believe it. I kept muttering, “Grandpa is here. He was here.”
My happiest day became the hardest and saddest day of my life. A week later, my whole family flew to New Zealand for my Grandpa’s funeral.
He was inside the black box looking handsome in his white tuxedo. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. My aunty said that the last time Grandpa talked was when he last video called us on the day he became sick, that was why he wanted to talk to me so bad, but I wouldn’t let him, because I was mad at him for not coming. I thought back and cried, “Grandpa wanted to talk to me one last time.” I heard that everyone talked with him that day, even my uncle and cousins in Australia talked with him. He told them all that he loved them.
It broke my heart that it was only me who did not say farewell to him, that I was the only one who didn’t talk to him. Because that night, he had a seizure and died. The only thing that kept him alive the next day was life support. I cried my heart out, but it was no use, He will not open his eyes again; he will not scrape food onto my plate again. I will not be able to see his warm smile again, and most importantly, I will never be able to feel the comfort of his love again, which he displayed in all the things he did for me. My grandpa is gone and there is nothing I can do about it. I kept wishing to turn back time so that I can properly say goodbye to him but I can’t. Life can never be reversed.
When we buried Grandpa, I vowed to myself that I would never ignore my loved ones again and that I will always check up on them and never get mad at them. I would spend my time with them, making memories, because when they are gone; that will be the only part that’s left of them, are your memories of them when they were alive. We can only live and move on as we can never go back to where our loved ones were alive if they die, thus we need to cherish every day with them as if it’s our last. Because no one can undo death, therefore do not waste our time on anger as it is limited but use it to share and have fun with your loved ones.
I love you Grandpa Tavita and you will always be in my heart forever.
Easther Debby Semeatu is a Year 8 student at Faleula Primary School. This literary piece from her was the winning essay in the Samoa Observer Short Story Competition Year 8 English category.
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