Nono. This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

August 16, 2012
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As my dad knocked on the front door of their house in Argentina, my grandparents’ sofa was the only thing I could think of.

“Hi Dad, Merry Christmas!” my dad exclaimed to my grandpa, whom we had endearingly nicknamed Nono, after the Italian word signifying grandfather.

My grandpa, faithful to his Italian roots, hugged his son lovingly, and kissed my mom on the cheek. He then looked down and addressed me, “Franco, you have grown so much! How old are you now?”

I knew Nono was well aware of my age, but then I also knew he always enjoyed making these two comments every time we saw each other. “I’ll soon be turning nine in about a month,” I responded, straightening my back and lifting up my chest.

From the kitchen, an aroma I had always associated with Christmas filled the foyer. Unlike my mother, who absolutely abhorred the smell of stuffed calamari, I always thought it made my grandparents’ home much cozier, and brought the nearby salty air of the ocean even closer. My grandma, Nona, walked out from the kitchen.

“Oh, look who’s home! My most favorite people in the entire universe,” my grandma said in her usual, high-pitched voice. I could not help but wince when she spoke. “Here you go, dear, I’ve gathered these for you,” my grandma said as she handed me several issues of a soccer magazine I had been interested in the last time we had visited. I kissed both of her cheeks in gratitude.

After several rounds of hugs and kisses, my grandma walked my mom and dad to the kitchen, where she would show off her cooking and talk about politics.

I decided to follow my grandpa to the family room, where he had a game of soccer on. The furniture had been rearranged, and it took me a moment to find the dark brown sofa, lying by the fireplace next to the Christmas tree. Suddenly I realized my legs hurt from standing so long at the doorway, so I sprinted towards it, and jumped on it.

“Ouch, I forget how old and hard it really is!” I thought, as I slightly bruised my knees from the impact. The sofa had been in the family room for as long as I remembered, and if Nono would have told me that he had bought it in his twenties when he married grandma, I would have probably believed him.

“Sit closer, Franquito, we are going to watch our team, San Lorenzo, beat former champions Boca Juniors,” Nono said, motioning me to sit by him on the other side of the sofa.

While I did as he asked, the sofa gradually became more comfortable, and I began to feel like I could sit on it forever. “You know I was actually one of the founders of San Lorenzo. After talking to a couple of friends at church who I thought would be interested, we began to fill out all the paperwork necessary to establish a team. At the time, Argentina’s soccer league was just barely starting out, so it really wasn’t that hard.”

Really, grandpa?” I looked at him in awe, “Did you ever play soccer professionally?”

“Yes, I actually did. I was probably the youngest in the team when I started off playing for my town. I was never much of a striker, but I excelled at passing and setting up plays.”

“So you were a playmaker, like Maradona and Riquelme?”

“Haha. I don’t think I was ever as good as them, but I did eventually succeed in playing at the national club level. Then I met your grandma, and I decided to settle down, and get an office job that would give me the time necessary to dedicate myself to starting a family.”

We were interrupted by Nona. “Would you stop boring Franco with all of your stories? You aren’t even letting him watch the game! Anyway, dinner’s ready!”

Out of the blue, I realized I was starving. “Nona, could we possibly eat on the sofa?”

“I’m sorry, honey, but this is Christmas dinner. We always eat in the dining room during the holidays.”

I reluctantly got up and followed my grandparents to the adjacent room.

“Of course he’s going to be okay, Dad! The doctor said that once he gets the surgery, he’ll be back to annoying Nona and calling you daily! I don’t even know why we even flew to Argentina to see him. Do you know how much school I’m missing? It’s the beginning of my sophomore year. I can’t start off like this!” I struggled really hard to contain my frustration, but I failed to keep myself from thinking that my dad was being completely irrational.

Once the elevator finished its ascent up to the fourth floor of the hospital, my dad gave me a disapproving look. For a second I thought he was teary-eyed, but then I figured it was just the lighting. My mom and my sister had decided to stay over with my grandma, who had most likely made the irrational decision to pray and light candles for Nono.

My dad and I didn’t open our mouths during our walk to Nono’s room. While waiting in front of the closed room, a man in a white lab coat greeted us. His face looked awfully serene—it didn’t seem like anything could disturb him.

“Hello Doctor Martinez. This is my son, Franco,” Martinez shook my hand.

“So, how is he doing?” my dad asked.

Martinez adjusted his glasses, and held his hands in front of him. “Well, it appears that the amputation of his left leg has been done effectively. Now, only time will tell if his blood pressure will stabilize. Since Bernardo accidentally took the wrong dose of his blood pressure medication for several months, and also taking into account that he is over eighty years old and has had a history of being a smoker in his youth, I can’t avoid but saying that he is in a quite delicate situation.”

My dad shook his head up and down. My jaw dropped. “What? His leg was amputated? He’s in a delicate condition?” I failed to clearly establish my thoughts. Then, I dimly recalled all of the times I had ignored my parents talking about Nono’s situation at the dinner table. I had been too busy chatting with my sister about school, sports, and extracurriculars.

“Could we possibly visit him any time soon?” my dad asked.

“Yes, you’ll be able to visit him in about an hour. He won’t be conscious, but I’m sure that he’ll be listening,” Martinez uttered in a tone that seemed slightly more sympathetic.

We sat in the waiting room. The chair I was using was soft and comfortable, but I couldn’t bear spending my time sitting on it.

“Okay, you can come in now,” Doctor Martinez said, as he walked out of the room.

“Franco, how about you go in by yourself, I’m thinking right now. I’ll be waiting for you right here,” my dad said.

As I walked up to Nono’s bed, I realized that the sheets abruptly dropped off when they reached the bottom left half of his body. I would have to get used to him without a left leg.

“Hi Nono, its Franco. How are you?”

I waited for a response. None came. “So, the doctor said you are getting better. He said that you will soon be back home once your blood pressure stabilizes. Nono, you are a fighter. You will get through this! I know I haven’t talked to you in months, but I’ve been really busy lately. My grades are really good. I also recently got my black belt, and I’ve been swimming a lot too. How have you and grandma been doing? Visiting the beach lately? It must be different, but beautiful this time of year, right?” For the first time, I looked up from the bed to his face. He looked exhausted. So many wrinkles. He had also lost so much hair since the last time I saw him.

I looked down to his missing leg. He had run and kicked the soccer ball so many times with it. “How will he manage without a leg?”

I looked around the mostly empty hospital room and sighed. Then I looked back down to the bed sheets I had been holding on to. They were wet with tears.

On our ride to the beach a few months later, Nona kept joking around with my sister and my uncle. Dad was driving and, as the sun hit his face, he smiled. Mom didn’t speak much. She simply stared out the window. So did I. Somehow, the news of Nono’s death had already been processed by the rest of my family, but I was always the slowest when it came to accepting unexpected events.

“I will not cry. You must not cry,” I silently kept repeating to myself.

“We are here,” my dad said as he found a parking spot.

My uncle got out of the car, carrying a jar which held my grandpa’s ashes. I followed him. It was winter and really cold. But I think I would have been numb even if it were to have been 100 degrees out. Once we reached the waves, my grandma started crying. Then my sister and my mom also began to cry. The three of them hugged each other. My uncle couldn’t help but to let go of a few tears. To my surprise, I saw my dad cry for the first time. I was the last one to cry, but I eventually joined them.

No words were uttered. The wind pierced at our hearts. We simply kept hugging each other. It was just so cold.

My dad opened the jar, and ashes fell to the ocean Nono had so deeply loved in his younger years. “Bye Nono,” I whispered inaudibly.

It was over. An entire person’s life. Gone.

Now I had to fly back home, and go back to school. I remembered I had to finish a group English project—I needed to call the people in my group to set up meeting times which would be convenient for all of us.

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