|One of the few pictures I have of my grandmother|
‘Donna Santina’ – Geralda Ferreira – my grandmother (In Portuguese they say VoVo) . Specifically, my grandmother on my father’s side. “Santina” means 'saint' in Portuguese. She was also my Godmother (Madrinha) . And a tremendous influence in my early life.
For a few years, my grandparents (on my father's side) lived with us in our home in South Pasadena, California. They had moved to the US a couple of years after us and as many families from the old country and that generation, we were all under one roof. When they moved out in 1976, they moved to Downey, California (birthplace of the Carpenters).
Anyway, after they moved, I spent about every other weekend at their apartment and a great deal of the summer. I worked from an early age at my father's gas station that he owned about a block away from their apartment. I would get up and spend the day pumping gas, checking oil, cleaning windows, sweeping up and having lunch daily at the hamburger stand right behind the service station run by an elderly Korean man.
My grandmother made sure I got up and always made dinner at the end of the day and sit and listen to what had occurred. My sister and I attended Catholic school and I was an altar boy because my grandmother made sure that I would go to church on a regular basis. Fast forward to my junior high school years and by then we had moved to Temple City all the way from South Pasadena (about 11 miles).
Both my parents were working by then and during my 7th and 8th grade year, I would call my grandmother almost daily when I got home from school. She would ask about my day, and I would talk to her about my homework. Sometimes short calls and sometimes longer depending on the day's events. To this point in my life I had no other person who was always so engaged in what I said and what I was doing. She was an active listener and would ask questions that surprised me.
When she and my grandfather decided to become American citizens, I spent the better part of a year reviewing the Citizenship history test with them. They had a thick Portuguese accented English as they would answer my questions and prompts. It was a constant review and I would say the answer and they would do their best to recount the proper words. It was a great deal of memorization and listening to my version of the answers. All this coming from someone who had a rudimentary education in rural Brasil. She had this tenacity that she would learn how to answer all the questions in the best manner possible. It was a deep listening when I would recite the questions and answers. It did not occur to me that while she was approaching her late 60s, she was still willing to learn. It was a great example for a young mind.
There are dozens of articles and stories about things that you can learn from a grandmother. My grandmother helped me develop a sense of who I was and how to listen with intent to hear what was being said and not necessarily to respond.
I always think of her example of listening and most of my memories are based on her doing just that. She passed away in 1979 and even now, I think about her and I am grateful for that example to learn how to listen to others. It was a brief time that she lived with us and when I think about these past 50 plus years in the United States, I am all the more grateful for the opportunities it provided, not just to me, but my extended family as well.