Finally, this is it.
I never thought I was actually going to find it. For days I have been searching every shore, every beach front, asking every local I could find in the hope that someone might even give me a hint as to its location. They all knew remembered something about my grandfather, but never knew its location. I was so close to giving up, I wondered whether it was even still standing and was real or merely a metaphor for the people of the island, their passion, love and tradition.
My father grew up on the island of Poros (near Athens' port of Piraeus) along with his older brother Argus they had spent many summers at the bay. While many enjoyed and lapped up the sun, tourists and locals alike, my father and uncle knew there was so much more to the island, there were adventures to be had and mysteries to solve.
Poros, an island with many stories to tell...
The island itself has always had many stories to tell, what it has seen and survived throughout the years from the attempted invasion and resulting defeat of the Persians to the construction of the first naval base in modern Greece in 1827 and the coastal defence against the attacking Nazi forces. Obviously, my father and uncle didn’t live through the Persian attack, but that still didn’t stop them recreating it.
Taking to the streets from the family home, they would make their way to the clock tower, the best view of the ocean, to see how far the mighty invading fleet was, and how much time they had before the battle commenced.
The island itself has always had many stories to tell, what it has seen and survived throughout the years
Down at the bay they prepared their armies, they would stand fast on the golden sands, ignoring the sun worshippers and tourists milling around looking for the best photo opportunity, those that had no idea of what was at stake. Hidden behind the rocks at Monastery Beach they would wait, timing was everything. They knew that this was the best spot, there was enough foliage for their forces to hide amongst. There was no way they would be spotted from the invading ships. If they did not protect their island, their nation would be lost. But to them, there was more at stake, something closer to home. My grandfathers fishing shack.
View of the harbour of Poros, Greece
For generations, the Andino family had been proud residents of the island of Poros. Through the hard times and good, the Andino’s had remained, even during World War II when the men were sent to fight, the women of the family, my grandmother as a young woman, her mother and auntie stayed and protected what was precious to them, knowing that it would not be long before their brave men would return.
Neighbours and friends did the same, that was how the people of Poros dealt with highs and lows, together. If there was a new birth or marriage, there would be singing and dancing in the streets into the early hours (celebration is important in Greek culture). A community driven by love and pride for one another, and the Andino’s were at the centre of it. When there was a death, the whole town grieved.
Following World War II, many families were not lucky enough to have their men return, and it affected the whole town. No one’s loss was more important than another. They would celebrate together and mourn together; and that is what happened with my grandfather Damon. A brave young man that was one of the first to step up and protect not only his small island or country of Greece, but the free world from tyranny.
Charming creation from Poros island, Greece
My father told me the stories of him, a loving father, brother, and son. There was not a request too big or little for him. If neighbours called on him to help move furniture, he would be at their front door waiting. One of the regular requests was assistance with their fishing boats. Grandfather was an excellent fisherman and carpenter and his stories of the legendary fish and adventures at sea would fill many evenings surrounded by family and friends. His fishing shack is where he would spend most of his time, if he wasn’t repairing broken lines and nets, he was building his own boat. It was a project he took upon himself, he loved being out on the water, it was a scene of opposites, surrounded by nothingness, the stillness of the glistening sea looking back over the island that was so full of life and love. He wanted to create something from scratch, made by his own hands, something that he could enjoy for himself and then pass on to his son’s. He dreamt that his boat would last as long as the family name did.
The shack was a small, modest wooden structure. It was certainly not the acropolis but to him, it was even more impressive. He took great pride in keeping it clean, tidy, and freshly painted. As he saw it, his shack represented him. He loved people visiting him while he was at work, and after his apricot tree began blossoming, he couldn’t keep visitors away, that is until the War came, and the shack began to fall into disrepair.
When my grandfather didn’t return, life changed for them all. My father and Uncle became the men of the house and had to take up the duties that their father would complete without a second thought. Needless to say, the upkeep of the shack fell to the wayside. There were not enough hours in the day for every job, something that only solidified how impressive my grandfather was that he could do it all on his own, without a grumble crossing his lips. The clean and crisp paint became cracked and broke off all together. The windows grew dirty, one even smashed, no doubt from a local youth thinking the shack had been abandoned all together.
My father blamed himself for the state of the shack, he used to spend hours watching his father work sitting on the workbench, but since his death it was too hard for him to even look inside through the window. He could not bring himself to see what it had become, what the memory of his father had become. Years after his death, my father had the courage to venture down to the bay and inspect the shack once more. The key turned in the rusty old lock with a sharp click and pushing the creaking door open he was both shocked and amazed at what stood before him. Covered in years’ worth of spider webs and dusts was a fishing boat, one that he had not recognise. It was only the shell of the boat but at that moment my father knew what he had to do. He would spend the following years finishing what his father had started. What he did not know or could complete on his own, a neighbour or friend was more than happy to help, spending hours telling stories and reminiscing of his father until the boat was seaworthy. What no one expected was my father’s health to deteriorate so fast.
He had worked hard to provide for his family, for me, to give me the life he thought I deserved, and he had accomplished that; it was his time to leave us. He was the first to say that he had lived the life he wanted, full of love and happiness. It was said that he and his father were one in the same, a dear friend that was prepared to do anything if it would bring joy to another.
He never got to take the fishing boat out for its maiden voyage. The fishing boat that had begun with my grandfather, that was completed by my father. With no family left in the area and only stories of the shack to guide me, finding it was a task in itself.
Now here I am, standing in front of it, the place that shared so many laughs, so many moments of joy and elation, with key in hand, ready to complete the boats journey from land to sea. I questioned what condition the boat would be in now, if there at all. It had been so long since it had been seen by human eyes, but somehow, I knew, that it would be there waiting for me. It was my destiny.
The key turned in the lock and as I pushed open the rotting door, I imagined my father and his father in the very same position so many years before. What greeted me took my breath away; it was exactly how I imagined it, generations of hard work seemingly waiting for me to take her out to sea but it would not be only me on that journey, sitting at the helm would be my grandfather, and beside him, my father.
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