Saudades do meu Pai

O meu Pai e eu

Saudade is know as an untranslatable word. The meaning?

“A feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia that is supposedly characteristic of the Portuguese
temperament.”

That is how I would describe myself today, with a feeling of longing and nostalgia for my father. Yesterday would have been his 82nd birthday and I wish I could hug him and show him just how much I’ve been blessed. There are many things I’ve learned to appreciate in life but I feel like I could have shared those thoughts with much more courage and confidence now than I did when he was alive.

Like any relationship ours was one that had its ups and downs. Mainly because there was such a generational gap – he had turned 50 when I was born; a complete surprise to him; a wonderful surprise he would often correct me.

When I was young I knew the boundaries he created for himself and for others. He was an older man and strict to his core. A good friend to the ones closest to him, still his best companion was his memory. Conversations about his youth were scarce but every now and then he would share about his adventures. His love for history was pure and he lived during iconic times but the stories he would share were more about life’s lessons than about his ego. Still, these stories, weaved through historical moments I read in books, taught me much of who I am today. And while I didn’t notice then, I know for sure that he left a lasting impression on me. Some of these stories have mirror mine…
How my father left his small town to come to the Portuguese capital in search of a better life. I left my own country in search of a better life for me and my family.
How my father chose to forgo an educational path in order to care for his family while building a relationship with his teachers to share about their discontent for the old regime of censorship. He claimed this to be his best education. While I have a degree, my first job in the US was as a forklift driver for a Florida nuclear plant and later I worked in a call center doing things I was overeducated to do. Still I built relationships with people from all walks of life that still impact me today.
How my father traveled Europe during the Portuguese dictatorship and lost his passport in Italy, only to be called every month for a meeting with the Political Police (PIDE). Since I moved to this country I did have my passport expire and going through immigration offices is definitely not something I would wish on anyone. But that experience taught me to respect everyone, no matter where they are from.
But my favorite was more sensational than character builder: how he met a young Sidney Poitier at the opening of a club in Ibiza, Spain. I got nothing on that.

Those were incredible life lessons that have shaped the person I am today – sacrifice, hard work and respect.

But it wasn’t always pretty with us. Not all of his convictions matched mine and we had our fair share of disagreements. In a moment of defiance he took a stand against my maturation process and said no to my wedding. That would be his greatest regret. Not being there on the most important day of my life was difficult and I’ve learned to cope with it.

In the later years before he passed, sickened by cancer, I saw what he must have looked like when we was younger. While definitely with less energy, the outer layer come out and his ability to love and care became more evident. They were always there but not as visible as now. I might have doubted he was able to do it so freely when we were going through our rough patches. But when he asked for forgiveness to me and my bride for missing our wedding, that example of courage made it all worth it. To acknowledge your wrongs. To be bold in accepting your convictions as wrong. To make that transformation known through words. I didn’t see that often from my Dad. Still, I will never forget it.

I miss him. I miss his conversations about soccer. I miss his simple compliments. I know he would have loved to see the wonderful family God has built for us. I know he would have loved to see the relationships we have built in our community. I know he would have loved to see his grandkids growing-up.

The feeling of saudade is inserted here… in the nostalgic remembrance of how much I loved him; of how much I indeed learned from him. I think there is great motivation for me to learn from his life. While I didn’t admit at first, there is much more of him in me. And I’m proud to admit it.

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Remembering Maya Angelou and Celebrating her Legacy

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The last few months have been busy. We all go through these seasons where in a blink of an eye one wonders where has all the time gone. In moments like these few things make you stop and look around. The passing of Maya Angelou was one of those moments.

Like many in my generation I learned about Maya Angelou through interviews, documentaries and of course, her famous quotes. One of my favorite quotes is both symbolic but real; as a palpable statement that you feel when you say it. It is one of my favorite quotes because it is true and it shapes the motivation for my actions:

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”

I never met Mrs. Angelou but I would have loved to have spent just one afternoon soaking in all of her experience and life’s lessons. The main reason her poems connected with people was because you could hear the real impact life had on her soul. From the early life as a singer to the later part of her journey as an activist, her message was one of self-confidence and self-belief. These are attributes that weren’t always poured out onto me but that I found through my role as an adult who could positively impact the circle around me.

I’ve intentionally soaked up this quote when interacting at home, at work, at the neighborhood pool or at church. The reality is that people won’t forget Mrs. Angelou because she made them feel valued and she made them believe in themselves.

I want to leave that type of legacy as well. Do you?