My 65-year-old experience of life’s bittersweet taste. In the beginning of 1955 I was 10 years old so I remember a much simpler life ..
Life is a mix of many good and some bad and ugly things .......
'Things' that occur, chances that arise, thoughts that lead to good openings, ideas that go awry, accidents that prove beneficial, mishaps that hurt, decisions that we take that alter our path towards the future.
One good decision that I remember well was to take my schooling more seriously at the start of Form 3. I was 14 attending Middle School. I had spent the first 2 years being careless, skipping lessons and playing truant and behaving like the 'tough' repeaters whom I was befriending. My great aunt who had raised me up from a baby and who loved me dearly (God please bless her soul x x x) was indeed worried and furious when on inquiring about my progress in Italian, the teacher informed her that he had not seen me in class for a week.
She tried to drive some sense into me and begged me with tears in her eyes (poor dear) not to hang out with such boys who were older than me. Fortunately I listened that time and got a prize for English in Form 3 and was first in Class in French in Form 4, but I still have the ugly thoughts of how I must have worried the poor woman.
In 1952 I was 8 years old. I lived with my great aunt, a spinster aged 52. She had raised me from a baby, not because my mother rejected me but because mum was busy having a baby every year. That's how it was in those days. Every family had 9, 10, 12 (like us) and even 17 kids. I had three siblings who died and all the families had the same experience. Many babies and young children used to die and it was the custom to bury them in white coffins, while the church bell pealed less sadly.
In those far off days, in the early 40's, Gozo was 50 years or more behind other European countries. We lived in a church-run state, so having sex outside the intention of making a baby was a grave mortal sin. Poor dad who worked so hard for a small monthly salary had 12 mouths (9 actually) to feed. And mum besides the mountain of housework was a tailor and used to sew dresses for the neighbours. That's why I finished living with my great aunt and 3 other old relatives who lived in the same house, only a few doors away from my mum's.
I loved living in such a big house complete with a large cellar and a fair-sized garden at the back. Everybody's attention was on me. I was maybe a little bit pampered.
I saw them all die one by one. The oldest was my great-aunt's mother, Maria who died aged 92 when I was about 4 years old. I still remember her feeding me a boiled egg sitting on a door step in the terrace. My aunt's sister, Josephine who died at home when I was 9 or10 and her brother Francis, a retired teacher who died in hospital at about that time too. They all loved me and considered me as their own baby boy. I will never forget them and I pray for their souls every day.
Then there was Toni, the husband of my other great aunt Paula. They lived next door in a very small house with a roof terrace. I spent a lot of time with him, going to his field on foot in the afternoon after he finished work, and doing odd jobs on his terrace where he kept some hand tools, a saw, a brace, a hammer, an assortment of nails and pliers. He bred rabbits in a small shed in one corner of the terrace and kept a couple of canaries in a large cage. I liked helping him, or better watching him building small cages with thin strips of wood and wire. This is where I learnt to use my hands, I think.
He died a few months after I got married in 1979. That was one of my ugliest periods, I was so sorry to see him helpless in his bed, his face all blue and purple, speechless and his eyes begging me for help. I tried to comfort him and immediately called the ambulance. He died two days later in hospital.
His wife Paula had died maybe 3 years earlier. In her last year she suffered from dementia and one afternoon she opened her wardrobe and handed me a small black bag half full of coins. She told me that I would surely need the money but one peek inside the bag confirmed my suspicion; a bagful of half-pennies. But it is the intention that counts - for her the coins were gold sovereigns and aunt Paula gave them to me with all her love. How can one forget such genuine people.
To be continued .... I have so much to write about ..........
Joseph Attard (author) from Gozo, Malta, EU. on June 22, 2021:
I am ready to answer any question that readers may ask :))