Mar 26, 2010

What Makes People Happy?

I came back from Boston wondering why my grandfather decided to live. Instead of fearing death, or acting indifferent towards it, my grandfather is beginning to see it as rest. He says he's tired. He's on oxygen which gives him a limited radius of travel and he's taking dozens of meds... he feels like a prisoner and is, and a burden but isn't. Instead of jumping into this depression however he goes on living. I think it's awesome... in a sort of way that awe-some really intends.
It is happiness that keeps him alive, and not for fear of death but of choice. If you listen to my songs, I have my opinions, but I'm just as confused as everyone else... I have my periods of lost hope, but it's the happiness of doing what I do that keeps me alive... I'd like to think that anyway.

So I wonder as an exercise in sanity... What Makes People Happy? What Makes You Happy?

this will make you happy:

Mar 6, 2010

The Great Escape

I'm back in Boston visiting my Grandfather who has spent the past 10 weeks in the hospital. My grandfather has spent the past 50 years of his life in and out of hospitals for various medical problems and subsequent miraculous recoveries! He is one of the first men to have had a kidney transplant (Now the oldest living Kidney Transplant Patient) and despite a 20% chance of living for 3 years, he has gone another 50. A triple bypass, a pace-maker, numerous surgeries for dozens of oddities, years of experimental medications, and the respect of the top physicians at Mass General Hospital, Tony has surpassed all of our imaginations in just how much "will" has to do with life and living. He has always credited his will for life to his family, especially his wife, my grandmother Gilda. She has been by his side for the past 55 years and going.

But before his health became his primary obstacle, there was Portugal. Born in Sao Miguel in 1930, Tony and his family were forced to escape in 1949 while Portugal was under the dictatorship of Salazar. My grandfather tells me stories of a time when a dictator under the direct influence of Adolf Hitler but that fearfully allied with Britain and the United States ruled Portugal. Salazar sought to keep his empire by disrupting civil liberties and suppressing political rivals. My great-grandfather and grandfather and the Soares family presented a strong presence and were among the leaders of a rebellion against the right-wing authoritarian government. My grandfathers best friend (a political activist who belonged to another family joining the rebellion) -- one day was flying a private plane between islands, not more than a 10-15 minute trip... he never arrived. He was assassinated. Killed by Salazars' secret police. After weeks of search, nothing was found... no plane, no body... just the disappearance of this young man. With continued efforts to disrupt Salazars' "New State" resulting in numerous attempts on their lives The Soares family were forced to escape. It took many years and too many side stories to explain how they came to settle here in Boston... My grandfather always tells us how he felt when he first saw the Statue of Liberty, and I can't express the sincerity of emotion when his eyes well-up with pride... he takes a breath and says "She was so beautiful."

Never to return to Sao Miguel, Tony taught himself to speak, read and write English (with help from my Grandmother, also a native of Sao Miguel). He Attended night classes while working long hours, 7 days a week in a greenhouse, until he graduated as a draftsman and later through promotion, a mechanical engineer. During his life Tony worked for various corporations, Deck and Honeywell among the top. He was the original patent holder under many of Honeywells' patents that many of us continue to enjoy today (Although the patents are held by Honeywell today).

Most of us can gloat amazing grandparents... and if you got one to gloat about, do it! I could write a book about my Grandfathers adventures... this "blog" barely scratches the surface of the man. Maybe someday I will... until then I will enjoy the time we have left together, and continue to be amazed as the cracks of the story of his life are gradually filled in with substance.

More information on Salazar and Estado Novo (New State) visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/António_de_Oliveira_Salazar