91 Excellent Years, And Counting

by bicyclemark 0 Comments

I can remember at the end of every summer when I was kid, having to wake up before the sun came up, to get a ride from the town’s lone taxi driver, who would take us on the long journey via the treacherous and twisty national roads of Portugal before the dawn of highways, to catch the plane back to New Jersey.  Right before my brother and I would get in the car, my grandparents would do the routine: wish us a good trip and ask us if we forgot anything. Then my grandmother, who even back then never had trouble speaking her mind, would speak a dramatic line like she was rehearsing for a very poor rendition of McBeth, “I probably won’t see you next year, as I’m old and I probably won’t survive til next summer.” This would be followed by us half-laughing at her over-dramatic delivery as we’re trying to focus on the journey ahead, and the traditional, “oh be quiet with that stuff” from my grandfather.  More than 20 years later, I’ve noticed my grandmother no longer says it, as I guess around the age of 90 it is simply implied.

The beauty of having grandparents around the age of 90, who are still of mostly sound mind, is that you can ask all the questions many people never get to.  Instead of learning about your family based on second or third hand stories, you have the very people who lived unbelievable moments and did the kind of hard work that seems impossible for any modern day work-from-anywhere self-employed person. You also get to watch them reflect on a world that they have observed for almost 100 years… even if they were too busy or napping for many of those years.  In an era where we stash our elderly out of sight and praise the virtues of being young, I’ve had the good fortune of never losing touch, and always being enlightened/entertained by one set of my grandparents.  Even better, throughout my life, I’ve gotten to help my grandfather in his orchards, listen to my grandmother in the kitchen, and laugh at the cold weather while sitting with them around a fireplace.

Not everyone gets to do this. That truth never eludes me. It is a rare treasure that no one is guaranteed and many are denied. I would call that one of the main reasons I would share stories about them, to share the wealth in some tiny and perhaps naive way.

Today my grandfather, José da Fonseca Jr. turned 91 years old. Whatever his age, however different my world might be from his, he is a part of everything I do and the way that I do it. Parabens Avô!


Two Years Ago This Week

by bicyclemark 0 Comments

It is the anniversary, though I don’t need an anniversary to remind me of someone who’s energy, wisdom, and spirit, I carry with me everyday. 2 years ago I wrote this text, and I re-post it because it never stops being true:

When I was a child, he would come over to the US and take family vacations with us.
I would listen to his stories of so many adventures he had just returned from.
He spoke so many languages and had this encyclopedic knowledge of the world.
I think even then as a child, I looked at him and listened to him; I wanted to be like him.
As a teenager I would spend parts of my summer with him in Lisbon, thrilled at the chance to go to work with him.
He had this way of plucking books and artifacts off his shelves, to show me some evidence of some historical occurrence. In the middle of a conversation he would start searching some stack of books or in some drawer for something magical that illustrates a point.
As a young adult and a student, I lived in his place in Lisbon. Spending wonderful days and nights, surrounded by his books and his things. Thrilled to be carrying on the tradition, and comparing notes any chance we would get, about what was going on in the city we both loved.
It should come as no surprise that years later I would plant myself in Amsterdam, with him only three hours away in Brussels. Again whenever I felt alone in my adventures, I took solace in the fact that I had him nearby, always ready with advice or a warm home (and a loving family) for me to visit.
He followed my every move on the internet, the audio, the video… it was all filed away in his computer. Knowing this gave me a sign that I was doing something special, that the person whom I’ve look up to all my life, understood and enjoyed my dedication and purpose.
There was never a time that I wasn’t learning from him, about the world around us, about how we got to where we are, and even now… about life.
It is inadequate to write only one post and only these few lines about someone I love so much and will always love. But when it comes to him, someone who has so much to do with who I am and so much of the joy I’ve had in this life, it is impossible not to tell the stories and shout it from the mountaintops- for all the world to hear.
My dearest cousin, you will always be my inspiration and guide as I make my way through this world. But of course, I know you knew that…

Easter 2006

A-Ren Turns 6

by bicyclemark 2 Comments

This website has existed in different forms since 2001. In that time, alot of people have come and gone, regular readers, occasional visitors, frequent comment leavers. For those that remember the days when the title of the site was “The Communique” and my focus was on more than under-reported news but also life in Holland, family, friends and internet culture in general, then you’ll surely remember when my nephew A-Ren was born. Its hard to believe 6 years have gone by.  To this day when I travel, when I run into friends or aquaintences that know my site, people still ask me “How’s A-Ren?” Naturally I always smile and say He is GREAT!

In honor of his birthday (yesterday) I present a classic film from his toddler days, and here are two classic posts about my nephew for your reading pleasure.

I realize some new readers out there might find it strange to hear about the personal stuff, the family details, and my feelings… but to them I say – this here is and always has been a blog. And blogging is fundamentally, beyond everything else, personal.