I don’t know what it is about Italy that is so connected to Tiney. There are some parts of Italy that just hurt my heart. Tiney and I were never here together, in fact, she never visited. But when I wander the streets of Florence, I see her in the reflections of every incredible dress store. I wonder sometimes if I don’t take Rissie shopping because I tell myself that I hate shopping, or if because it is in reality that I can’t stand seeing Tiney in the mirrors. Today, when I finally got to Venice, I saw her on every bridge, in every alley. Even though I did not say a word to Rissie or Archie, there were times when I found it hard to breathe. Perhaps it was because, during our time, when we were last in Italy, we spoke almost every day, we messaged each other constantly to attempt to be the most profane. Our last conversation was one where we planned a Tasmanian Christmas together and we celebrated her new job. She told me she had never been happier, and I said the same. Not in those exact words, but in the way that two people communicate when they know what the other is saying without it being said. In a space of a week, everything changed, and my world turned topsy-turvy. Instead of going to Venice, I had a hell-flight home to face devastation I never thought was possible.
None of those last few weeks will ever make sense to me. I have a box in my head where I put things that I don’t want to deal with. I compartmentalize. I put Multiple Sclerosis in there for two years. I also put Italy in there for a while. My last few weeks with Tiney I suspect will stay in there for a while longer. For when I am stronger, or more capable of realizing that sometimes you never get the answers you seek. It is not Pandora’s box, but something similar. A box in my head that I am scared to open until I am ready, perhaps a box that I will never open.
Returning to Italy was something I had to do. It took me a little while. But I returned. To a place where I had never been happier. To the very place where I found out that Tiney had gone. I came back and instead of hurting, it has made me smile more than I could ever have imagined I was capable of. The final piece in the jigsaw for me was making it to Venice. I knew I would see Tiney on every corner. I knew she would laugh when I stepped inside of a church to light a candle, just like I am sure she was chuckling last week when I attended an Italian Catholic Mass for the Feast of Epiphany. When the kids kissed baby Jesus, I had to stop myself from looking at the heavens for fear of the cursing coming out of Tiney’s mouth. I am so glad I returned to Italy. I am so glad I came to Venice. I am so glad I saw Tiney on every corner. I think she would be swinging on a star right now, flicking her cigarette ash at me and muttering, “What took you so long Lou? What took you so long?”
You see, Venice for me today has been a little bit like a dream come true. Nothing. Absolutely nothing could have prepared me for how beautiful, strange and surreal it is. Words do not suffice. We visited the Libreria Acqua Alta today. A book store that has been on my bucket list ever since I heard of it a few years ago. I was happy to wander the streets of Venice. Cross bridges. Wander alleyways. Travel on the Vaporetto and even ride a Gondola. I felt like a voyeur as I would have been content to peek into the windows of the Venetian houses that were especially wonderful as the darkness of night fell and the interiors were magically illuminated. I have few words as my heart is full. Archie and Rissie kept on asking me if I was ok. I kept telling them that of course, I was ok, while I tried to remove the tumult of emotion from my eyes, which they have become incredibly savvy at reading. But I truly was. It is a momentous occasion to realise that a dream has come true. It is also an incredible thing to be reminded, as some of us take a while, that you are doing ok despite the challenges that can be thrown your way.
I truly, truly love this country. Perhaps it is the people that I have been fortunate enough to have met and fallen in love with. Maybe it was fate to meet my Italian family and be introduced to an Italy that makes my heart sing. To see children who never pick up a device or turn on a television and who will repeatedly go outside and fall into frozen waters just because they need to see if the ice is hard.
To hear phrases thrown around like “food is life” just warms my heart. That is not talking about food as the essence of survival, but food as the essence of joy. Food as the thing you share with those you love, the preparation of which you discuss endlessly, food as in the beautiful simplicity of something that is in season.
Venice for me was a dream come true. It was like nothing I could have ever expected. By making it here, I was also letting Tiney know that I am ok, even when I feel like I am not. Perhaps one day I will come back and study Italian, so I can learn to speak this language. Maybe one day we will come back for longer. Rissie tonight said to me, as we returned from dinner, “Mummy, I wish we had more time, we need a month.”
The thing is, we will always need more than a day, a month. I think we always, always need more time. I think we need more time for everything and everybody that we love. But what I am learning is to be grateful, forever grateful, for the things that we have been fortunate enough to experience. To be thankful for those who have shared their light with us, who brightened our world, even if it was not for long enough. For what I have and for those who have known, I am so forever thankful. I am so lucky to have experienced what I have.
I am in Venice. Dreams do come true. The memory of someone is a sacred thing as it means that you were lucky enough to have had them in your life, if only for a little while. Just like places, like Venice, like Italy, reside in your head and heart forever.
Dreams really do come true and memories are forever.