I remember being about five or six years old when my parents asked me if I wanted to take Portuguese language lessons. To which I would always reply, “no.” I might have been young, but I wasn’t dense – I thought that Portuguese lessons were a trick to get me to attend school on a Saturday and I wasn’t interested.
Looking back on the situation twenty years later I wish the younger me had taken the lessons. As I grow older I have found a new appreciation for my Portuguese heritage and more importantly establishing a link to my past. What I am beginning to realize is, as I grow older so to do my Portuguese-speaking Grandparents. Luckily for me, over the years my Grandparents have learned a little bit of English and with some patience you can have a conversation with them.
One afternoon I was sitting on the porch with my Grandfather and I was curious about why he chose to come to Canada. I knew my Grandfather had left his young family, a wife and three children, behind to come to Canada, but what I wanted to know was why? I figured the most logical thing to do was to ask. So, I did. I re-call him turning his head to the side and then he smiled and said, “I was crazy.”
Not quite the answer I was expecting either. He told me his brother, one of five brothers, came to him and simply asked if he wanted to go to Canada. He didn’t know much about the country, but he knew that he wanted to provide the best life possible for his children and with that thought in mind he left his family behind and ventured to Canada. The rest is history.
Today something horrible happened (My Grandfather is fine). I went to turn on my Xbox 360 and a red ring was flashing on the console when it is usually green – something was wrong.
These days when I have a question or something needs fixing I turn to my friend Google for the answer. Sure enough, Google knew exactly what the problem was. It even had a cool name for the problem – The Red Ring of Death (Rrod). I was instantly connected to forums, videos and wikis detailing what the Rrod was and how to fix it. I wasn’t in the mood for reading (who could really stop to read when their Xbox is broken?) so I decided to follow the youtube link titled “Quick Fix for the Red Ring of Death.”
The video started and I could hear a young English (England English) voice talking about fixing the Rrod in 20 minutes by using only towels. I followed the instructions and within twenty minutes my problems were fixed. A few years ago, a friend of mine had the same problem and they were forced to send their consoles back to Microsoft for full repairs and here I was years later fixing mine – no postage required.
I was quite pleased with the final results, but something inside me could only wonder: what did people do before Google? I sat in my room thinking about my Grandfather with a wife, three small children, a small plot of land, a modest home and the family donkey. How did he solve the problems of his time? I can only imagine that he was left to fix his own problems.
Now I am not trying to compare fixing my Xbox to the same problems my Grandfather faced, but rather try contrast how the “problems” of a person’s life can change over long periods of time. In his mid-twenties my Grandfather was starting a family and trying to provide for them using all that he had: some land, a donkey and his own two hands. Here I am two generations later and I have just finished a four-year undergraduate, a year at Teacher’s College and the worst thing to happen to me today was to have my Xbox stop working.
My conversations with my Grandparents are important to me because their stories seem to be so surreal to me now. As time goes by I try my best to collect as many stories as possible so that one day I can share stories about my Grandparents with my children. One day my grand child’s technological toy may break and the “House Bot” will come out from the closet and fix it instantly and I will be an old senile man on my rocking chair telling stories about how “back in my day.” Like anything in life, I believe, it’s important to know where you came from so you can appreciate where you’re going.