|Luiz (Dad) circa 1967|
Dad – One of my earliest memories was this dinner (pictured above) at a Brazilian Chuhasqueira (BBQ) sometime before we left Brazil for the United States in 1967.
“Joy” is not a word most associate with death and I know it may seem odd. I am comforted in my faith and know that this is what happens.
My dad passed away two weeks ago (October 7, 2021) and I have a joy in my heart that he is with his beloved parents and we will meet again in heaven. Like many families, we did not always see eye to eye on things and I want to share those things that I am grateful for having learned from him.
I am overjoyed at the Sunday brunches we had when I was in high school and college and would just talk about life. I think of the dozen or so midnight mass on Christmas Eve that we attended. I am grateful for the lessons of the dozen or more shows and musicals that he took me to and shared those moments with the intent that life offered greater gifts than the ones that we had seen. I think of the time when we were kicked out of a pool and then the hotel we were staying in Vegas because we were swimming after hours. I think of the times that his favorite uncle and aunt (also his God parents) visited and we played host as they shared stories and songs (It’s a long way to Tipperary – his Godfather would sing in his broken English).
My dad came to this country (United States) because he saw something better for his family. It is one of the greatest gifts of my life. I would not be who I am and the family that I have it if had not been for this one decision. . In 1967 as they have told me, he said “there are jobs in America.” And she said, “I’ll go where you are.” That was the whole conversation. Yes, imagine planning to move your family across town and how that can result in months of complications, fights, agreements, and compromises.
I had the opportunity at a very early age (9 or so) to learn that one could work hard and help serve. My dad owned a gas station in Downey, California and most Saturdays and all of summer I would spend pumping gas at that station. I got a $1 a day and lunch (often times from a hamburger stand behind the gas station owned by a Korean American who also spoke Portuguese).
I recall the workers who passed through as well. Charlie was an Iranian American who had immigrated also and worked at the station. No one spoke of this at that time especially when the hostage crisis occurred. He would say he was from the Middle East and my dad helped him be employing him. There was also Juan who (when I was in high school) worked on a boat that dad had bought form the Scouts and we were rehabbing.
I spent lots of Saturdays (after the gas station was sold) working with my grandparents at a Swap Meet selling toys, clothes, jewelry, games, and other items. My dad arranged these and my grandparents even bought a van (that I helped find and negotiate price) to carry all the items and portable tent cover as well as tables for displays.
This was another gift from my dad. I have never considered myself a sales person and as I looked over my life these last few years, it was those early moments that I developed a sense of sales and watched my dad charm his way around folks.
I have had lots of folks tell me that my dad was charming. I have never considered myself to have that gift. His broken English; his use of cuss words; his ability to sum up a moment and convince you otherwise; those are a gifts he shared.
My dad also was a huge proponent of education. I consider myself a lifelong learner and he was part of the reason I am. I joke about his get a college education speech and how I know it by heart. The speech always came up around report card time. I was an “A” student with an occasional “B” in junior high and high school. And when those “B’s” showed up it seemed to deflate him and the get a college education speech would unfold. It was difficult to reconcile at times when I was a teen, and it took some time for me to recognize the impact.
Those Sunday brunches, where he would often talk about what he had heard on NPR radio or Paul Harvey on ABC. He had taken an extension course at UCLA and John Saxon (the actor) was in the class. He would come back to that course often almost as a touchstone of his own education. It was very important to him and I know that being a lifelong learner is equally important to me; if not more.
My wife says that she believes that when we die and go to heaven, we have the opportunity to live for eternity as our best selves. That is the relationship I look forward to having. That is why I am joyful.
I am brought back to moments when his parents passed away and how he was isolated from them and he isolated himself. It spoke volumes to me about their relationship. They had a devotion to that tight knit family unit that grew up in rural Brazil and the three of them, together.
This also brings me joy to think of how we will get to see that again.