He was 86 when he parked his bicycle by the shed. My grandfather wasn’t a cyclist and his bike was the only luxury item he had to afford in post-war rural Italy. He lived on a steep hill and worked 14 hours a day in an underground power plant down in the valley; most of the nights his bike would become a burden as he was too tired to cycle uphill and yet he had to carry it at home. When he retired I was born. He moved to the seaside and built a child bike seat to carry me around any time there was a chance. When I became a teenager, I bought a bike that would look like my grandfather’s, with big wheels. His was rusty-brown but efficient, mine was brand new, flashy red but totally unreliable. And if I got a cycling bug many years later, now you know why.
When he parked his bike, he moved at our house. The following three years were spent battling an unnamed illness that first got him in bed, then took the skin off of his bones and lastly, took all his memories away. At that time, my brothers had already fled to study at fancy universities in the north of Italy. It was now my turn to leave home for my studies. I was going to leave my widowed mum who was already taking care of my grandmother, alone with his ill dad. I didn’t have the guts to leave her alone in that situation and decided to stay and study at the local university instead.
It was natural for me to take care of my “nonno”. He had given me all the things I wanted: he invented and built toys for me, he was my babysitter during the long summer months, he would send me to fetch the eggs freshly laid by the hens. He thought me how to shave and how to save. He lent me the money to buy my first 5th hand car. He thought me to be joyful and open to people. But mostly, no matter how long had I been without seeing him, every time we met he would have the largest smile and warmest hug for me and made me feel the most welcomed person on earth. God knows how much he suffered through his illness and I didn’t take notice of all the time I spend with him, shaving him, feeding him, changing his medication, washing him and listening to his stories.
And then, the same happened all over again with my other two grandmothers. I don’t know how many years I have spent taking care of my loved ones: it was natural with my grandfather, it was quite hard with my grandmothers.
This is why this year I have decided to support Carers Lewisham. I will be riding the Prudential 100 this Sunday the 30th of July in favour of Carers Lewisham and any donation you wish to make, will help anyone who like me, is or will be taking care of someone through the hardest time of their life.
Donations can be made here: