The Bible says it is more useful to go to a funeral than to a party. It explains why. At a funeral you reflect about life and its finitude. You reflect on its meaning.
I am riding on my father's car on the road from Ilhéus to Itabuna. I am singing Leandro & Leonardo's Pense Em Mim. I have always been a car singer. I never used to sing in the shower, but as soon as I stepped onto a car, any car, I'd start my little private concert. Pense Em Mim was one of my favorites, almost like Drive My Car is to Paul McCartney (if I can afford the luxury of comparing myself to Mr. Paul McCartney).
“Nininha,” my father said, “you really like that song, don't you?”
“I do!” Said I, and kept on singing, and looking out the window, my other favorite thing to do in a car.
Memories of my father are few. But somehow I feel I should write them down. Some how I feel it is the right thing to do – to remember the times I spent with my father.To reflect on the meaning of his life in mine.
Grandma said he loved me. Grandma said in his own way he loved me, he just did not know how to show it. Did he?
Grandma said he regretted not having been a real dad to my brother and me. Grandma said he cried in my brother's wedding because he felt how much he failed us. Did he?
Grandma was always the first one to come down hard on him when she felt our rights were being hurt. Grandma on the phone giving him a motherly sermon, even though she had long ceased to be his mother in law. "They are your children! What on earth are you thinking!"
I will never know. And whether or not he loved me, I will never know. Maybe he did. Maybe. Maybe every mistake he made led to a harder path back to show his love for me. Maybe.
I feel bad I did not call him on the weeks before he died. Grandma told me I should. She gave me his number. "Call the poor man. He needs to hear your voice." I just couldn't bring myself to it. I feel bad I didn't. He died without hearing my voice. I thought of it. But I did not know what to say.
Last time we talked, on his birthday, he cried. I couldn't cry.
When he talked to me right after my almost-fatal car accident, he cried. I couldn't cry.
I couldn't cry because the love I should feel was simply not there. Nothing was there but the feeling that something was wrong. Something was missing in our relationship. Something that should have been there from the get-go. Something that should have grown stronger with the years. That something was missing in my heart. Maybe he did love me. Maybe he felt really bad he was never able to show that to me.
But when I got the news that he died, on that morning I cried. I could not hold back the tears. On that morning, I did cry.
And, after talking to my brother, I feel as if the right thing to do is to remember our moments together.
Everything with my father was methodic, organized, explained. The same explanations every single time. You must drink this because it helps build antibodies. You must not eat that kind of food, because it causes cancer.
We spent 2 or 3 summers at dad's.
He takes us to the video store in the morning. We go there almost everyday. When we watch late night movies, he gets us up and walking around the house. "This way you exercise and don't fall asleep." the same explanations, every single time. In one of these trips to the video store I found the movie HELP! Oh, what a delight! I watched it and watched it and watched it.
My brother is in my father's room. He browses over his record collection. My brother has always been a curious boy. He is trying different records and he finds one with Sugar, Sugar. I go in and find The Beatles - 20 greatest hits. Two months ago Aunt Léa had watched a Tribute to John Lennon and told us he'd belonged to the Beatles. "That's them! That's the Beatles! Let's listen to them!"
I had loved John Lennon's Ticket to Ride on the tribute concert, but it was Paul McCartney's Love Me Do the first thing I heard in that I heard on that day, followed by She Loves You, and something magical happened in my heart. I was hooked. My father told me about the Beatles, and England, and the BBC. When we went to the video store and found HELP!, my heart was about to jump out of my mouth with excitement.
I cough. My father tells me I must be getting pneumonia. We'd better treat that right away. My father was a hypochondriac. That's what you call a person who thinks himself and the world is always about to get sick and must have medicine for everything in the house. Let's stop at the pharmacy and get treatment for that pneumonia.
Breakfast time. My father asks if I want lemonade. I love lemonade. He makes me the best lemonade ever and explains how to do it and why. The same explanations, every single breakfast.
Toast with cacao jam is the menu for the snack. It was our favorite snack when we were at my father's. He prepares it in his very methodic way and sets it at the table. Lelas reminded me of that episode. Cacao jam is still a favorite for me. Everyday he came to visit he brought some.
Home made chocolate? Is that for real? It's for real. One of the times we went over to visit, he had a girlfriend living with him. She used to live across the street. When she lived across the street she made homemade chocolate for all the children in the neighborhood. I loved her homemade chocolate.It was hard to bite into. You were suppose to suck on it. It was delicious.
Lelas reminds me of the frescoball championship. We look out the window. There is a square in front of our father's condo at Fátima neighborhood. We befriended the children in the neighborhood. The children idolize us, because we are the big city kids. We also have the racquets and the balls to play frescoball. Every child in the neighborhood wants to play. We finally decide the best thing to do is to organize a championship. We know everything about championships. We learned everything we needed to know from the World Cups. He list the competitors. We draft a game grid with accumulating-point games and elimination games, much like the first and second phases of the World Cup. We establish prizes for the first three places.
We announce to our father that since we are the organizers, we must go get prizes. Dad takes us to the grocery store to buy prizes for the winners. Little cheap toys.
I was the best player before the competition. I was also taller and older than the other kids. But I did not win the tournament.
Lelas remembers going to the soccer stadium. The Ilhéus team stadium. Lelas says it was the first time he ever went to a stadium. It wasn't. Lelas was too young to remember the first time ever. But it was mom that took us to Fonte Nova. But our father took us on the field. That was something to remember, how often to get to go on a professional soccer field?
I remember going to the mall. The only mall in Ilhéus. We went there a couple of times. I remember thinking how minuscule it was.
Now we are going to Olivença for the day. People come from Olivença from all over the world to treat themselves in it magic waters. At the door, we always buy cocada. Yummy cocada of all flavors. I never liked the guava one. It's coconut! Who would want guava flavored coconut! Father makes sure that we don't spend too much time in the sun. Father makes sure we don't spend much time there at all. We never spend much time anywhere with our father. Remember: methodic, organized – timed. He makes sure we are nice and dry before we get into the car. On the way there, however, he makes sure he explains all the benefits of the water from Olivença. The same explanations, every single trip.
My father shows up in Salvador. It must be a birthday or Children's day. He comes to church to pick us up. He obviously takes us to the movies. It is always a movie and a meal. We go back to grandma's. Kisses and good-bye. And, yeah, lots and lots of advices.
I get a letter from my father. I often get letters from him. So does Lelas. Very few words. Lots of newspaper clips. Eventually I stopped caring about the letters. I got tired of news paper clips. Maybe it was his way of showing he cared somehow. I just couldn't handle anymore newspaper clips.
At my father's house he tells us about highly successful people that he reads about. He tells us about Akio Morita. He tells me about Bill Gates. Back home and buy The Road to Information. I devour that book in a couple of months. I learned a lot from that book. Bill Gates was an impressive man. My father seemed to have an admiration for impressive self-made men and women. I think if we had been closer I'd have learned much more abot highly successful people.
My father and I were never close. Not as you must be to a father. I will never really know why. I am too busy minding my own business to go investigate. It is what it is, with its rights and wrongs and life has no RWD button, only PLAY. Some time some one hits the FF button, and it ruins it because there is no RWD, no PAUSE, no STOP. maybe father regretted the lack of REWIND. Maybe. I will not regret. I will move forward. I will make sure I am to others what my father was not to me - Someone present who shows love and care and develops that through the years. Joao Pedro, my students, the children I might have someday, my own grown-ups. I don't want them wondering whether or not I loved them. I want them to know it.