(To my grandfather Z.)
Sporting Football Club fans could not hide it. A foot shaking under the table, a nail bitten up to its root, a racing heart under the shirt. It had been nineteen years. NINETEEN years of a patient, yet exasperating wait. It would be our night. It had to.
Starting in the early afternoon, Lisbon turns green. Thousands of people go out to the streets, a green wave originating in a green sea of hope. The weather was perfect for a victory, the sun shining bright up in the sky. The game starts. Then, in the 36th minute, it is struck what would become the only goal of the game, the one that would guarantee our club’s 19th league title and interrupt rivals Porto and Benfica’s 19-year stranglehold on the championship.
My mind drifts. My excitement is real, as my club has just broken a long period of fasting, but empty. I wish he was here. Emotions can be a lot of things, they can drive you mad, sink you in the darkest depression or bring you tears of joy. It depends on their nature, their timing, your story, your timing. In the amusement park that my life has been for the past 27 years, emotional rollercoasters without paying ticket are something I am not so unfamiliar with. And here I am: euphoric, yet empty.
Z. was the kind of person who… definitely was not “a kind of person”. How can you describe someone indescribable? Words don’t even make sense in sentences, no matter how much you swap them in a phrase. Z. was that brilliant doctor, avid reader, arts’ lover, scientific mind, and proud grandfather who decided to start liking football at the age of 65, because “interests, just like emotions, can and must be tamed in order to upgrade your personality everyday” and, of course, following the same line of thought, “you should be able to fully enjoy everything in life!” (even if that is something you despised your entire life, like 11 men brainlessly running after a ball in a football field). And this was how Sporting suddenly gained an atypical fan back in the days.
As the only granddaughter Z. has ever met, I had the privilege to grow up in a happy place that no one could ever reproduce, even if they tried really hard. Developmental Psychology emphasises the importance of nurture in the development of a child. What if I told you I was raised to know just a little bit about EVERYTHING? What if I told you I was THE MOST stimulated little girl in the neighbourhood? What if I told you it was all thanks to this special person he was? I grew up in a world where a day passing by without learning something new was definitely a wasted day of my life. I was told that knowledge was power. That learning was not just a process to reach something, but a goal in itself. That a girl would not be correctly judged if all people could see of her was her looks. It was brain, and skills, that mattered the most to Z. And that is what he wanted to fully develop in me. That was his new life-goal, from the moment I was born in that sunny morning of March 1994.
And so he did. He spent his days teaching me a little bit of everything. Challenging me everyday. Quizzing me out of nowhere. That is how I know from a ridiculously young age that our body is made up of 206 bones, being able to not only name the main ones but also precisely localize them in the skeleton drawn in his old anatomy posters (which was useful 12 years later when I got myself into medschool). That is how I know that light is faster than sound, and that is sensible to expect hearing the thunder after seeing the lightening, and not the opposite, in a storm. That is how I know how to play chess, British card games, and, if a piece of paper and a pen are all I have access to in that moment, how to have fun playing Battleship. That is how I know the main fencing moves (refined by endless matches in the long corridor of his house with plastic swords and strict rules applied). That is how I know by heart the capital cities of most countries in the world. That is how I am quite aware since the age of 6 that a ton of cotton is definitely not lighter than a ton of lead (and how to solve mathematical problems and other riddles). The list is never ending.
Z. was taken away from me way too soon, taking with him all the priceless knowledge he did not have the time to share and teaching me the final lesson that time is limited, since everyone has a due date. With him, the part of me whose development only responded to his stimuli, therefore being dependent on his presence and his ways, was shut down forever.
I don’t need any major event to remember my grandfather, it is actually pretty hard to make me not think of him for a second, but I probably needed something out of the ordinary to happen to encourage me to write down a few loose words on an unrepeatable existence.
From the mind that bloomed in that fertile soil you watered with so much devotion,