Thursday, February 04, 2016

A Tale of Three Uncles: the Rich, the Rascal, and the...

... schizophrenic?

I've been planning this post in my head for years, but I could never find the right "R" for the third uncle. Over a year ago, on November 3, 2014 I tentatively titled the post: "The Rich, the Rascal, and the Rebel, or 'A Tale of Three Uncles'" and wrote "I still haven't found [the right R], but Rebel will have to do for now. You see, my dad just told me that this uncle of mine is doing very poorly right now, so I wanted to write about him."

I never went on to write the post. Now I have to, but I'll say why later. I have more than three uncles (2 in my mom's side and 3 in my dad's, plus my aunts' husbands -- another long story), but these three stand out.

Most people have a rich uncle (don't they?) and mine is my mom's oldest brother (they are five siblings and my mom is the much younger "baby"). He is a handsome man (you can scroll down on this post to see him as a baby), who married really well into an entrepreneurial Italian-Brazilian family and became wealthy as a result. He also became more part of his wife's family than ours and my mom resents that.

She is also many years younger than him (15+ years), so they were never very close. He was always very nice to our family and let us use his beach house for free every summer (my parents still go there, but not every year anymore). We always saw him (sometimes only in church) when we visited my family's hometown (Curitiba) and in 2001 when we went to Brazil for my brother's wedding, K and caught a ride to Curitiba with him and his wife in their SUV and stayed at their apartment one night. My mom is always a bit upset with him because she wanted him to help financially other family members, particularly the children and grandchildren of their sister (second oldest), and he would always help begrudgingly only if she insisted.

I was happy to see this uncle and his wife in Texas last year. They had just done a cruise in Alaska with my in-laws who took a group with their tour company and I wasn't expecting to see them there. I think this uncle will turn 100 years old and still be in good health. He reminds me a bit of my grandpa, so I am always a bit moved to see him.

The "Rascal" is my mom's second brother, who also married an Italian-Brazilian wife! He was always very affectionate with my mom, so she was very fond of this brother. He was also kind of a rebel (he could have been both of those "Rs") and turned away from his dad's religious upbringing to marry the feistiest girl he could find. I say he's a "rascal" because we could never figure out if he had an actual job, and there were rumors that both him and his wife fooled around at various time, but he is doing well in his old age, still with his (feisty) wife. They have extremely successful children and grandchildren -- their oldest son is a doctor with a prestigious career who is also a professor at a medical school in addition to his practice. I haven't seen them in  over 20 years. :-(

My dad had three brothers, the oldest one got divorced over 40 years ago, never remarried, and now lives close to my parents. The one a bit younger than dad lives a few hours from us here in the U.S. and was left disabled by a benign brain tumor removal surgery he had back in 2009. The third one is my uncle Daniel who had schizophrenia, lived a very sad, troubled life, and died unexpectedly last Friday.

I mean, he hadn't been doing well since late 2014 (and much before that, frankly), but this is what happened...

... this uncle was very intelligent, but troubled. Unfortunately, mental illness runs in my dad's family and some siblings were more affected by it than others. My dad was always, ever since I remember, trying to help his younger brother out. I remember tio Daniel visiting us and I have some very good memories of those times -- he always would either bring or buy me and my brother presents -- toys. He bought me a large plastic doll once and I always thought of him when I played with it. I also remember how the way that he nervously moved his knees sideways as he was sitting on the couch talking to my dad made me feel uncomfortable. It was like a nervous tic and didn't seem normal to me.

He got married in the late 70s (against everyone's advice) and decided to become a policeman. He joined the police academy, passed the tests, and began to work. His wife had a baby, Rafael, and I remember a few visits to their apartment, getting to meet the new (and youngest) baby cousin. However, he drank a lot and was very unstable. His wife said he beat her and left him, moving away with the baby to her hometown. Then, my uncle ended up being discharged from the police (I don't remember if it was state or military police) with a disability pension -- one of the few positive points of his troubled life story. I remember quite a bit of tension whenever my dad's family discussed about him.

I don't know when exactly, but soon after, in the early 1980s, he went back to live in the small town in the North of Paraná state where they all had grown up. Many people in town knew him from babyhood (he may have been born there), and looked after him. After my grandfather died in 1978, the other seven siblings (my grandma had four girls & four boys) decided that they wouldn't sell one of two of their parents' houses in that small town so the house could be given to their troubled brother. My parents visited the former wife (then remarried) and her son a couple of times, but she and the boy wanted nothing to do with my uncle. She later died and my parents lost contact with the son. The step-dad actually told my parents that he probably wasn't my uncle's baby. Who knows?

I remember once, when I was 12-13 (?), that my dad needed to pick up this uncle to take him to the capital to go to the doctor and solve some problems with his pension and my brother and I went with him. It was very strange to hear our uncle talk about so many disparate things. I don't know if it was the last time I saw him, maybe it was.

There was a time when my aunt and her husband were helping care for him (taking him clothes, making sure he had access to his money, checking on the house) and my poor grandma, who died in 2008 would always be stressed about his well-being. Once in a while, when grandma wasn't bed-ridden yet, uncle Daniel would show up at grandma's house unannounced and she would be a bit disturbed (because he talked a lot and made up so many stories), so his sisters forbade him to come. My dad then took over caring for him and he would go every year, sometimes more than once, hiring people to help bring him food and look after him.

My uncle's health kept declining -- he also smoked a lot, having even set fire accidentally to his bed and house a couple of times -- and he lived in a filthy  house surrounded of junk (including old dilapidated cars that he'd buy) and he had lost his bank card and access to his pension. So finally dad had to take him to a judge and become his legal custodian, in charge of his bank accounts. The judge saw my uncle's condition and granted that, but the legal process was still ongoing.

(My dad was extremely stressed out about this whole process, because he thought that my uncle would make a scene at the judge -- he didn't want to feel controlled by anyone -- but tio Daniel didn't even realize what was happening).

Late last year, Daniel wasn't doing well and my dad decided to go see him after Christmas and try to bring him to a nursing facility in Curitiba (the capital). Fortunately he had the help of his "baby" sister and her husband, who live in Tennessee, but are paying an extended visit to Brazil now. They helped him convince Daniel to come and they had to take him straight to the hospital, because he was in bad shape, suffering from pneumonia. He was going to be discharged after four days, but the nursing home had no openings until last week on Monday (2/1), so he stayed in the hospital for a full week. Because he is older than 70, someone had to stay with him overnight, and they ended up paying for some nurses to stay because they were exhausted taking turns staying with him.

It was very hard on everyone because my uncle would become agitated and scream insults at them all, my dad wouldn't have been able to manage without his youngest sister, her husband and my cousin who is a dentist and dental school professor and helped get our uncle admitted and then kept at the Red Cross Hospital. So everyone was relieved when he finally entered the nursing home. They even traveled to the hometown to do some paperwork.

On Friday morning, when the news of his death reached my mom (he died overnight of heart failure), my dad was out without his cell phone, securing my uncle's health card (something like a Medicare card from the government). He got the card, but in the meantime his sister had already gotten another card, the one to go get his death certificate later. Dad called my mom from a payphone to ask where she wanted to go eat lunch and she told him to come immediately home (they were at my mom's sister home, the one who just lost her husband in August -- I never blogged that, will have to fix that, how sad!). So my mom told him when he got there that "It was all over" and he hugged her, cried and sobbed, saying:
I did all I could, I did all I could to help him!
Yes daddy, you did. Poor daddy. My mom said he was extremely stressed out about everything, so now he could finally be at peace.

My dad and his four sisters, three of which live in Curitiba, got together at the funeral home/crematorium. The one who hadn't been talking to the other sisters for years came and said that if they had called her to help in the hospital she would have helped. Three cousins also came. They said their goodbyes and he was cremated. My parents will do their best to notify his son and only heir that he can go and claim the property and any remaining benefits my uncle might pass on to him from his short-lived government job.

My uncle Daniel is the one standing on the left in this photo (my dad is on the far right, close to his dad, both wearing jackets, apparently, he was the favorite child):

Second from left with the white shirt (the two girls in the back worked for the family):
You're finally at rest, tio, and I'm so sorry that your life was so troubled.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

It's 100% Official: K has Tenure!

He received the official letter from the provost today and I'm happy for him! It's nice to see how he feels more confident and "settled" and he's also happy that I have a more stable job too!

Good news for the whole family!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Super Long Snow Weekend Was Great!

It felt like a mini vacation, and the worst part was that I had only taught ONE day of classes at U#2. I hope that won't make for a more complicated semester. I didn't miss any of my classes at U#1 because they are both TuTh classes.

I think our main accomplishment was watching three more Star War films with Kelvin (Episodes 5, 6 and 1) and laundry!! lots of laundry!  And food -- some a failure (sushi with too sticky rice -- horribly, terribly BAD rice-cooker that I stupidly bought!! I will write a SCATHING review on Amazon, as soon as I'm not too mad to write something) and some yummy (Brazilian cheese rolls!).

And the best thing was the skiing, on Sunday (all of us) and Monday for K and the boys. I had to go teach ONE class at U#2 -- my now very nice "boss/colleague" called me not to come right when I was dropping off the boys at the ski place and heading off to U#2. It was OK that I went.

OK, I'll stop here and post some photos of the snow from my phone soon!

Friday, January 22, 2016

It started!!

And I had forgotten we had this:
It's a gas fireplace that works without electricity, so we're good if the power goes out! I just need to find the candles and matches now. ;-) But I hope not to lose electricity! 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Eve our First Snow Day!

We're excited! And relaxed, and prepared... I mean, I don't think we will be OK if we lose power, but we can walk across town to our friends who have a wood stove. It would be a long, cold walk, but we could do it if necessary! ;-)

U#2 canceled first, then U#1 and now I checked the local TV Channel listing and the kids' elementary school is canceled too, so it's official!

Of course now that everything is canceled it won't start snowing until, say, 2 pm, but we'll be happily home! I'm planning to cook yummy pasta, make sushi, bake Brazilian cheese rolls and sleep a lot!

Let's just hope we don't lose power or we might have to move across town... oh well.

And we can't wait to go skiing on Sunday! Of course it will be SUPER crowded, but it should be great nevertheless.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

First Day (2nd round)

Today was my first day at U#2 and it was ok. I have to get used again to driving over 150 miles each day. When I'm not used to it I just feel exhausted...

Oh, and if I want to do some shopping afterwards (of groceries or just walk around & relax) I need to be prepared for 11-hour days again... Sigh...

I will acclimate soon enough to my new routine, but now it's 9:40 pm and I'm ready to go to sleep in my cozy bed!

The day wasn't better only because I was unable to leave earlier and thus got there kind of late. If my work computer's keyboard's batteries weren't dead I would have been able to print and copy the syllabus and handout before class, but I needed to get new batteries and then was a few minutes late for my first class. :-(

And then I wanted to leave right after my last class so I didn't have lunch and went to meet with my colleague instead. It was a good conversation and I hope we can make positive changes to the language program. With the new contract I finally few like I am truly part of the program, what a relief.

Because of the scarcity of time in my office before class and between classes and meetings I was barely able to talk to my friends/office mates. :-( We need to plan to get together soon, I've missed them!

Most important, I DO NOT have to teach at 8 am tomorrow morning!! I know that this will make ALL the difference in my life this semester. I'm so happy!

Can't wait for next school year, though, when I will actually have TWO DAYS completely free  (Tu/Th). I can hardly believe that this will happen and I'm looking forward to being a much better teacher (not to mention a happier more rested person) because of that.

Monday, January 18, 2016


From last April in DC:

Trying to Work & about Going Back in Spring Semester

I already worked last week, but it's this week that I'm gearing up to really start working and doing my mega-commute before teaching my classes at U#2.

I am preparing my syllabi right now and it's a lot of work because I am using a brand new textbook and workbook for one of my classes, and I'm hoping with all my heart that this book will be great. It's very time-consuming and horribly tedious to prepare a new syllabus with a new book, but I hope I can finish tonight or, at the latest, tomorrow morning so I can print the documents at U#1 and only have to copy them at U#2 on Wednesday morning before my classes.


I don't like to go back to work after a long break. In the Fall the break is longer, the students will mostly be new, so there's a lot of novelty and excitement, but in the Spring it's very very cold, the days are shorter, I know it will take long for it to warm up and for the days to be longer. It's ridiculous to think like this, but I can't wait for Spring Break and I have a feeling that February will be the longest, slowest month ever.

Sigh again.

I'm glad that this first week of work is shorter and also that I don't start until Wednesday. Next week will be the tough week to contend with. Maybe I'll car-pool with my friend at least one day -- that would make everything better!

I hope everyone has a great semester, whether you've already started or are starting tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

First Day

Today is my first day back at work, but only at one of the universities, and hopefully it will be my last semester there. I'm not looking forward to this first day because I have so few students that it's depressing... sigh...

OK, I have to go teach, so I'll blog more later, maybe.

At least I'm happy that I recovered (not 100% yet) in time to start teaching!

Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence -- how I remember David Bowie

Everyone was talking about David Bowie on Facebook yesterday, about his music, things he said, and the movie Labyrinth, but nobody mentioned my strongest memory of him, his role in the 1983 British-Japanese film Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (also known as Furyo in Europe). This WW2 movie introduced him to me and to Ryuichi Sakamoto's music (I had no idea it was his very first film score and also his debut as an actor, thanks Wikipedia! Ha, and I just found out he scored The Revenant).

Here's the trailer, a great role for Bowie:

Monday, January 11, 2016

In 2016...

... We finally go back to Brasil after 2.5 years away!! ( the boys and I travel on 6/30, get back on 8/5)
I wish we could go every year, but that would only happen if I had a study abroad there, or something. It is very hard to afford the tickets (although I must say that the prices are falling, we paid 700+ instead of 1200+ this year in addition to two award travel tickets).

... Kelvin will graduate from 8th grade and start high school and this will start a chain of six graduations that, if the boys finish college in 4 years, will go on uninterrupted, every two years for ten years into the future (until 2026!).

... My parents will visit (for the graduation) for the first time in five years -- I don't know if they'll manage to come every two years for the next 10 years, though (both in terms of $ and health). Sigh... I hope my in-laws can.

... I have the exciting prospect of having a few long anticipated "blogger meet-ups" when I go to OH for a conference in June. I really want to meet Jenna, and Dawn and I hope I will! I frankly don't care much about the conference I'm going to, I do go nearly every year, but this year the location is the primary factor. ;-)

... I will start my three year contract at U#2 in August and leave U#1 (where my husband works) and thus I will LOSE the funding to go to conferences which I get from my department at U#1. It's the only negative aspect of leaving this school. OK, and not being able to use their athletic facilities and parking on campus any more (only on weekends with K). I do have mixed feelings about walking away, but it's not fair for U#2 to have me divided since now they'll be payment me decent wages.

... Talking of wages, our family's income will decrease slightly this year with me leaving U#2, but I'll be working less and having more time to "live." I'm hoping it will be a good trade-off.

... we'll begin to pay way more for tuition because the private high-school costs much more than the elementary. Hopefully Kelvin will continue to do hours of community service that we started in 2015 to help offset the costs.

It took me nearly two weeks to finally finish this post. Sigh... I'm sure that other things will happen this year, but these are the main ones. I have a feeling it will be another great, but super busy year -- I just hope it doesn't feel as horribly busy as 2015!!

Last Little Thing Finished!

Written on Friday 1/8, late at night.

I can't sleep, I can't stop coughing. :-( This is the story of my life in the past week.

And yet, I won't take cough suppressants (I don't ever take those or decongestants or any of the multi-symptom cold medications that are so ubiquitous in every store in this country), I feel that the after-effects of those medications aren't good and since I have asthma, they generally just make everything tight in my airways.

Today I went and bought a couple of homeopathic medications for cold and cough and I'm taking those, but I'm still coughing. particularly when lying down.

Ending written today:
But the purpose of this post is to say that last Friday I took some time to finally upload the very last document that was missing of the translation (which I finished translating on Thursday night when I was feeling a bit better) and in the process found another little document that needed to be translated too and did that one.

So... I'm officially DONE with the translation and now I wait for the payment... sigh...

I can't believe it took this long!

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Adding Injury to Illness

Written yesterday, today I'm worse & may or may not blog about it... ;-)

I'm still sick. The good thing is that I wasn't sick at all in 2015 -- at least not during the semesters when I had to work, and I don't remember being sick in the summer. So I guess that this long bout with a virus was overdue. :-(

The sore throat has been gone for almost a week, but I'm coughing a lot now, which makes it hard to sleep. I also don't feel any hunger, so I haven't been eating much, and I feel a slight headache that comes and goes and congested (I think my sinuses and inner ears are also affected, though not very seriously).

In order to try to get some sleep I have been having to lie down in different positions, such as lying flat on my back, sometimes propped up by pillows and this has brought on a mild lower back injury. Last night I slept with an ice-pack on my back and that helped, so hopefully the pain on my back won't get worse. Sigh...

I am hoping that this will be all the sickness I get until the end of the Spring semester!!

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

The Book I Wanted to Write is Already Written OR "There's nothing new under the sun"

Well, not exactly, because my focus would be a little narrower, but the fact is that the book is not only already written, but it's not even one volume, but THREE! They tell the story of Brazil as a Republic (which started in 1889) up until 2002 through Brazilian popular music/songs.

What I wanted to have written would have been a bit less ambitious -- I wanted to collect all songs that "Sing the Nation" and those that are meta-musical (i.e. talk about music and musicians). I think I can still pursue that latter part of the project (if someone isn't already doing it), but now I have three books to buy and read to see if I have anything new that's left to say.

This whole thing is equally exciting and frustrating. Ever since I finished my dissertation and found out that a few months earlier there had been a symposium New York sponsored by the Brazilian Consulate that focused on some of the issues I discussed on the dissertation and that I'd missed it -- I have had this feeling that I'm always too late to everything, that I'm doomed to be late and therefore not part of anything meaningful. I know that's not exactly true, but it surely reflects many situations I've been in during my incipient academic "non-career" (the latest was very recent, I just didn't have the energy to blog it just yet).

In any case, it's a fascinating and all-encompassing research project that I'm delighted exists, particularly as it is accompanied by a website containing all the music (more that a thousand songs!) discussed in the book.

You know, maybe someday I'll be able to share some of the scholarship I've already produced and even more, but often I think that this will never happen. :-(

I need to thank the amazing journalist Mauro Ferreira for blogging about this trilogy!

Binge Watching

Thanks to Amazon Prime & sleeping in this morning I just watched all of Downton Abbey's season 5 today. ;-)

Last night I watched the "Premiere" of Season 6 on PBS in spite of the fact that I had only watched the first episode of the previous season. I couldn't resist watching it for the very first time on our TV since we now have a few channels of cable.

I thought I'd watched more episodes of season 5, but it had been just one -- I was way too busy last year in January to do it). I'm looking forward to watching the season to the end on TV, for the most part. (except for the Oscars night ;-)

I don't watch any TV, so it's fun to be enthralled by it once in a while... too bad a lot of things were spoiled by having watched last night. I sure want to visit Highclare Castle someday!