We watch the news about the coronavirus, see the statistics that show almost three million are dead and hundreds of millions of people sick around the world. But how many think someone from their family would be part of that?
My grandfather, Antonio Alevato, was 72 and was one of my favourite people. He taught me so much and always encouraged me to follow my dreams, even if it meant living in another country, 10 hours away from him.
Since I moved to Toronto to start college, my biggest fear was to lose someone from my family while here.
Every time I thought about losing someone, I thought about my grandfather. He was not too old, but he had been through a lot. He had diabetes, had a heart attack, went through two strokes and one thrombosis.
He was a fighter, though, and beat all of that without complaining and always with a smile on his face. He loved life, and we loved living life with him.
I returned to my hometown Rio de Janeiro at the start of the pandemic last year and shared happy times with him. On one of those days together, however, we talked about the pandemic and the risks.
“My dear, I know that if I get infected, I won’t survive,” he said. “I’m too old and vulnerable, I know I won’t make it.”
I understood that as well, but I was positive and sure that he wouldn’t get the virus.
In February, two days before I came back to Canada, I said goodbye to him. It was the last time I saw him, and if I knew that would be our last hug, I would have hugged him a little longer.
I talked about how sad I was anticipating my flight and he said I shouldn’t feel that way because everyone was very proud of me, especially him.
I am the oldest grandchild, and I’ve always had a close relationship with my family because that’s how I was raised. The Italian in him made our family everything to my grandfather.
One month after I arrived in Canada, my grandparents got the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. I was so happy and felt reassured.
But two weeks later my mom called and said my aunt was infected, but was apparently asymptomatic — meaning she didn’t know — and had visited my grandparents.
A week later, my grandmother, Nadi Alevato, showed her first symptoms. But I was relieved my grandfather was fine.
A week later, on a Saturday, I got a call from my mother, Rosana Alevato, saying he had been hospitalized.
My world fell apart. My mother kept saying he was fine and he was hospitalized because of his blood pressure. On Tuesday, three days later, his condition worsened and he had to be intubated.
That was the day I realized that I lost my grandfather. I tried to stay positive and faithful, but I knew it was time to prepare for the worst.
I began recalling our conversations, when he told me about his dream of seeing me on TV, presenting a soccer game. I told him he would see me doing that, even though I never wanted to work on TV and hate sports. But I would do anything to make him happy.
He passed away a couple of minutes after midnight on Good Friday. He didn’t resist.
My world crumbled into pieces when I heard the news, but I tried my best to stay calm for my mother and my grandmother. Everything happened too quickly.
But that’s what the virus does to people. We never know what to expect.
It hurts that I wasn’t there for my family and I missed the funeral. But I will always remember the last conversation I had with him, and how proud he was of me.
I will do my best to make him feel proud, wherever he is.