I was flicking through sites on my phone while enjoying my morning coffee when I read an advertisement for a writing competition. To be eligible you were required to write a story of between one and five thousand words about a situation where you survived or had beaten the odds. I thought I love to write; I could do this! I finished my coffee and went back inside and headed to my home office and started my laptop and opened the word processing program.
I sat staring at the screen with my fingers on the keyboard for ages. Waiting for inspiration for a story idea to come to me, but it did not. I sighed, Great I thought this was going to be easy. Glancing at the clock realizing that I had been sitting there for an hour I shut off the computer and went to get ready for work.
Later that night after my daughters had gone out with their friends. I was in the lounge room, tidying up after them. They should be doing this themselves, I thought. Reaching out and picking up the family photo albums the girls had been looking at. That is when I saw it, a picture of me with my parents when I was about eleven years old and a folded newspaper article. Tears ran down my face as I continued to stare at it.
Hello, My name is Antonio and I want to tell you about my life. Well, not my entire life because I have lived a long time, almost forty-five years in fact. But something that changed my life forever…. Therefore, this is what happened.
August 4, 1988
I walked home from school and then did my homework before playing outside with Tom who lived a few houses down from me until dark. The streetlights coming on was my signal to go home. As I walked into the house, I noticed that my two older sisters were setting the table for dinner. So I knew I had to be quick to wash my hands and join them. Them being my older sisters Jodie and Anne, Mum and Dad, my Aunty Louise who of course was already sitting down for our evening meal. After we all had our food, we talked about what had happened today and our plans for tomorrow. That is when Mum said that I would have to walk to school tomorrow because she and dad had an early appointment in the city.
“Can I go?” I asked, looking hopeful at them. (I love the city but don’t get to go often.)
“No, you have school” they replied in unison.
“But Mum… But Dad… Why not? I’ll be good,” I whined
“No, you have school,” Mum replied while Dad shook his head the same.
They were staring at me with their that is the end of the conversation look, and I knew it was no use they had made their decision, and that was the end of it. I slouched back in the chair eating the last few bites of my meal before tossing my cutlery on my plate.
“Mum! Dad! Why do you need to go there?" my eldest sister Jodie asked.
“Business,” Dad replied, not going into more details.
“Can I please be excused?" I asked.
Mom replied, “Yes Antonio you may, but please get your pyjamas and bath ready.”
Nodding as I stood and carried my plate into the kitchen and placed it on the sink. Then I headed to my room and got things ready for bed then headed into the shower. Once I had finished showering and getting ready for bed, I joined the family in the lounge room to watch television. Together we all had a good time until it was my bedtime.
August 5, 1988
Mom woke us all up early, so we could all eat breakfast together. Dad had made us pancakes a family favourite with strawberry jam and cream. We sat together eating and when I had finished, I asked to be excused to put my plate in the kitchen.
“Thanks, Dad, they were yummy. Can I come with you and Mum to the City?” I asked.
“Antonio, we settled this last night. No, you can’t. Now get ready for school!” Dad said firmly.
I went to my bedroom and I slammed the door shut screaming, “I hate you!”
Dragging my feet as slowly as possible I got ready for school. Once ready I went into the lounge and sat quietly on the lounge and checked my bag. Mum handed me my lunch box to put in my bag as then she leant down to kiss me goodbye because it was time for us all to leave. But I leaned back and avoided it. Mum looked hurt but she did not say anything. Dad called out bye to us all as we left to head to school, and they headed to their meeting.
I walked to school with Tom, Lisa and Rene who also lived on the way. We got to school early, so we played in the school playground until the bell rang and then headed off to class. The teacher called the roll to check who was absent so she could let the office know. Lisa took the roll down to the office and then quickly came back to our room and we started the day's lesson.
We had been at school and had morning break and were working on Australian History when there was a knock on our door. We all looked up and the teacher walked over to it and went outside. It was the principal, and he did not look very happy, but we couldn’t hear what they were saying but our teacher's face no longer looked happy, actually, it looked worried/sad/concerned. She stepped back into the room, and she called my name and told me to go get my bag and stuff together and go with the principal.
I felt confused I had not done anything wrong I thought, so why do I have to go. I looked around wanting anything to help me understand what was going on. When I got to the office Aunty Louise was there waiting, she looked like she had been crying. But she did not say anything except that we had to go and pick up my sisters. Confused I walked out to Auntie’s car and together we headed to pick up Jodie and Anne.
Once we are all home Auntie told us that the police had come around at lunchtime and let her know that both our parents had been killed in a workplace accident whilst in the city.
“No! NO! NO!! Your lying,” I yelled at her, tears filling my eyes.
My sisters came over and hugged me tightly as we held each other trying to work out why this had happened to us. What had our parents done so wrong to be taken away from us?
During the next week, my Aunty and sisters planned and organized the funeral with the assistance of our church Bishop and extended family members. I was not much help because I barely understood what happened. I was also confused about where I would be living now since both my parents were gone. I was officially an orphan, but I still had not accepted that or the fact they were really gone.
We were still sad and confused when we arrived at the church for the funeral. All our family and friends had come as well say their final farewells. It was a beautiful service, and our parents would have truly loved the memories that people shared. It was a very special day.
I was sitting on the steps outside of the church when Jodie came over to me and asked, “Antonio, are you alright?” She looked worriedly at me
“No,” I whispered burying my head in my hands.
“What is going on?" she asked gently.
“What if Mum doesn’t know I love her? I was so mean that morning.” Bursting into tears and hugging her tightly.
“Antonio, Mum knows you love her. Remember we may not be able to see her like before, but she is still with us. She is in our hearts, and we can talk to her whenever we want,” Jodie said quietly as Anne approached and sat down too. All lost in our memories of our parents.
The family and the wider community rallied around us and helped us get through. My Sister Jodie who turned nineteen not long after took custody of me with the help of the extended family and wider community organizations. After about two weeks I went back to school, and they supported me because they also had been told what had happened and most could empathize with how my family, and I were feeling.
Later down the track, we received a wrongful death payout which allowed my sister Anne with Aunty Louise to open a bakery in the small local shopping Centre. The rest of the money was put in trust for us for our daily needs.
I know I am not the only person who has had to pick up the pieces after losing someone special, but I feel like I am a survivor because if my parents would have given in that day like I wanted and begged for. I may not be here today to tell their story or tell my own children about their Grandparents who were so loving and kind.
Going through that hardship when I was eleven taught me to make sure I value and make the most of every moment and think before I speak.