My daughter turned 15 this week. On her birthday she posted this picture on her Instagram account. The first thing that I was struck with was how incredibly adorable she was. I mean stop it, that kid was just perfect. I remember this trip to London. This was the start of our adventure. We were months from leaving Portugal to head to Australia.
The girl in this picture was so full of life. The joy is just oozing out of her. I will be honest, the teenager that she has become is more reserved. Don’t get me wrong. She still has the best laugh, a quick mind, a fantastic sense of humor and an authentic heart. She is a hard worker and a trustworthy loyal friend. But I see that the world has changed her a bit.
Lana, dad and I hope that our travels and moves have enriched your life. But looking at this picture I wonder if we also robbed you of some of the simplicity that could have been your life. Rather than growing up with the same set of friends, you have known what it means to walk into a room of strangers and have to forge a path for yourself. You have done it so many times. You are aware that people are looking at you, judging you and you, therefore, you make decisions on how to behave based on how you will be perceived. That is natural and normal. But please remember my darling girl just how incredibly beautiful YOU, the real YOU is. Please remember the joy and exuberance of that you felt in this photograph and live that. Those around you who are worth your time will see the beauty in you and those will be the people worth your laughter, your intelligence, and your joy.
I love you and I always will.
My dad is in Portugal visiting us. It seems silly to say it that way, but he considers the United States his home. Actually, when he Â´visitedÂ´ us here the first time three years ago, he insisted that it would be the last time he came to Portugal. He felt he was too old for the trek and that with all his doctors and his Â´lifeÂ´ back in the States it just made more sense for him to be there. I didnÂ´t like it, but I accepted it.
The second spring we were here I called him to tell him that I was going to hire someone to help me plant a garden. Nuno was very interested in agriculture and I had no idea where to start. My father called me two days after that conversation and told me not to hire anyone as he had booked his trip and that he was coming for a month to plant a garden with his grandson. That trip was twice as long as the first one. This year my father is here for two months. That is in part because my brother is here now and my nephew (another siblingÂ´s child) will be here at the end on August and my dad wanted to be here for them both.
Last week my father turned 82. In years past he has shied away from parties. But this year he not only agreed to having a party, but he seemed excited at the prospect. A few years back we hosted a birthday party at the house when he was here and he commented that it felt like my mother was present. He is very much a man in love with his wife even though she passed away 18 years ago this month.
The party was a success. But before the guest left, I toasted this man.
After thanking our friend Jack who catered the event, and Ti Evangelina who baked the delicious bread as well as all the guests who brought fruit, veggies, juice and wine I took a minute to thank my dad for two things.
First I thanked him for taking us to the United States in 1974. My dad took a tremendous gamble seeking a new life for himself and his 7 children. He did so with a 4th grade education, no English but a hell of a lot of desire. Because of him all my siblings were able to return to school. Everyone but Alzira and me was already in the workforce. Their ages ranged from 13-21. America gave us an opportunity that a poor family was not afforded in this country in the 1970s.
Then I thanked him for the house where we were celebrating. My parents renovated that house in the 80’s. No one thought it was a good idea back then to build such a big house when we only came back every few years. But it is because of that house that we came to spend a year in Portugal. It is because of that house that my nieces and nephews feel they can come to Portugal whenever and know they have a home. It is because of that house that friends, and even friends of friends, have been able to explore Portugal basing themselves in a village that warmly welcomes everyone.
Thank you daddy. Any success any of us has had we owe to you and mommy and for that I can only be forever grateful.