Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Remembering Grandpa José

Passos, as we used to call my maternal grandfather José, would be 105 years old if he was alive today. He died in 1986, eight years after my paternal grandfather, so he is the grandfather that I remember best. My mom was his youngest daughter, so my brother and I were much younger than all our maternal cousins (it was the opposite in my dad's family, I was among the oldest) and as the youngest grandkids of a retired grandpa we received lots of attention from him and our grandma. When we lived in Curitiba from when I was four to eight years old we saw them every weekend -- they took my and my brother to the park -- or more often. After we moved away we would come visit and stay at their apartment several times a year(this apartment merits a post on its own and I also have photos of the building!). They visited our home yearly and all our vacations (generally a week or so at the beach) were spent with them. [The photo on the left is a document photo, that's why he's so serious].

The most memorable vacation ever was a road trip my parents, grandparents, brother, and I took to Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, and Chile in January 1979 when I was 7.5 years old. On grandpa's birthday we were driving close to the the Andes mountains on our way from Argentina to Chile when, at a turn of the road, we saw the Aconcagua, the highest peak of the Andes. We stopped to take a picture of Vô Passos and his snow white hair against the snow covered peak. I have to find this photo (maybe it's a slide) and scan it! We have footage of this whole trip on Super 8 film (not yet transfered to DVD). I watched it a few times during my childhood, but even without the film and the photos, I'll never forget this trip! (also worthy of its own post).

This is a photo of Vovô Passos and me from Christmas 1973 when I was two and a half years old. My mom was practically nine months pregnant with my brother at the time and her outfit was just like mine in this photo.
Grandpa was a fun guy to be around. He had these funny sayings and questions for us every time we met: "Are you yourself?" ("Você é você mesmo?") he'd ask, and we'd laugh. He put us on his knee or foot and played horse with us and also played some (untranslatable) word games. He was an energetic guy, funny, caring, and full of life. He feared death, though, and was obsessed with it, checking the obituary of the church magazine every month and saying that soon his name would be there too. It was pretty sad when he had a stroke not long after the big party celebrating his 80th birthday in 1983. He had forgotten to take some of his blood thinning medication and nobody noticed. He recovered almost unscathed, but his sense of time and his awareness of the world changed considerably. He still remembered all of us and even people from the past that he hadn't seen in years, but he couldn't really have meaningful conversations and didn't know what day of the week it was, for example. This ended up as a blessing because his obsession with death disappeared. It wasn't easy to care for him (his vitality actually increased in certain "areas" and my poor grandmother had to lock herself up in another bedroom every night -- you know what I mean, right?), but his death was fairly quick and peaceful when it came three years later.

My brother was born only three days after grandpa's birthday, so we always celebrated their birthdays together. Here grandpa is 76 and my brother is 4 or 5 (1978? The candle count must be wrong for either grandpa or my brother):

Look at my smile :)

I want to end with a photo of my grandfather when he was younger. I think he must have been 20-22 years old in the photo below since he and grandma got married in 1922 and my uncle Paulo (isn't he a cutie? He's still very handsome) was probably born a year or two later.
I miss Vô Passos, but I'm glad I have so many fond memories of him as well as many mementos like photos and movies that I can pass on to my sons.


Lilian said...

I accidentally published the first paragraph of this post which I then pulled out to finish. While it was still up Karen posted this lovely comment:

"Absolutely love these vintage photographs! They all look very serious. Your family stories are so interesting...

KarenM in NC"

Thanks Karen! I hope you like the rest of the post.

Sarah Sometimes said...

Lilian, what a beautiful post. The picture of you with your grandfather is especially touching. I love how I could recognize your face as a little girl from the current pictures you've posted of yourself, even though we've never met. And the stories about your grandfather really convey his personality.

M said...

What beautiful pictures!

Rene said...

Ha! K and I laughed about your grandfather's "increased vitality."