It was the morning after the day my life changed: the day I lost my tia and gained my son.
In the kitchen, while I was washing up the dishes, I looked across, and there sat Tanner, the same little boy I’d met at the clinic the day before, a few hours before I got the phone call from Pai that crashed my world.
He sat there with a huge smile on his face, looking up towards the ceiling.
“What are you thinking?” I asked as I joined him at the table.
“I was just… I don’t know how to explain,” he said.
“That’s OK,” I said. “You don’t have to. You don’t need to tell me everything.”
“No, it’s not that,” he said. “I want to say, but I don’t have words to say. You know how you feel like when you’re on your last life on level 9 and you’re really close to high score, but you’re facing about ten monsters between you and level 10, and you really should have died, but then somehow, boom-boom-boom, you get through, and the bells go off, and it’s high score, and you’re like, ‘Man! I should’ve died!’? It’s sort of like that.”
“You mean like gratitude?” I say.
“What’s gratitude?” he asks.
“It’s the feeling of thank you.”
He thinks for a minute.
“Yeah,” he says. “Like that.”
And I felt it, too. I felt, first, that open-heart feeling of raw grief, and into that open heart rushed tenderness and after that, gratitude.
We invited Mãe and Pai to visit. I worried when I called that it was too soon. But Mãe said she didn’t want to wait. She wanted to meet her grandson.
She managed a smile when she came, and I put on my brightest face. But I could see how worn she was.
“You know I’ve dreamed of this,” she said.
“I know, Mãe,” I replied.
And then Tanner ran out, and Mãe smiled a real smile.
“So this is the boy,” she said.
“I’m Tanner!” he shouted.
“What should I call you?” he asked.
I explained that I’d called my grandparents avó and avô, and he laughed. “I’ll have an avo sandwich,” he said.
Mãe suggested, “You could call me Grandma, but my name is Mae. How about if you call me Grandmae?”
I chuckled. “You’ve got the best name!”
“Do you play chess, Grandmae?”
She’d thought he’d never ask.
Pai wandered up from the beach.
“Minha família,” he said. He was all smiles.
We sat and remembered my first visit to this island home, when Pai brought me here to meet meus avós.
“I was about Tanner’s age,” I reminded Pai, “and the island felt like something out of a pirate adventure book!”
“Are there really pirates here?” Tanner asked.
I headed inside to make lunch, and when I looked back over my shoulder at them, I caught Mãe‘s face, unaware. Her eyes were puffy and tired, likely from a night of crying. She looked so drained, it hurt me to see her.
I was about to head back to try to say something, when Pai spoke to her, and she raised her hands and smiled, full of love. I don’t know what he said.
But I could see that it brought her back to this afternoon in the sun, with her new grandchild. I felt at that moment that I hadn’t rushed things. Or that, even if I had, it was for the best. She got to meet her grandson. Minha mãe got to spend an afternoon with the three rapazes in her life: her man, her son, and her grandson.
After they left, Tanner went inside to play games on the computer. I took a swim, and then painted.
As I fit together the swathes of color, I thought about the composition of the whole, made of all the shades, of course, but also made of shapes that intertwine, like emotions.
I can’t be blamed if I rush things. I want to fit it all in, while I can.