For mid-July it was not a very hot day in
Miami. It was sunny and beautiful and the breeze brought a subtle coolness. The
sky's vitality promised the day's charm would continue until sunset and end in
a typically splendid Miami evening. Judy and I decided that the weather merited
a trip to SoBe.
SoBe is the name we gave our little
apartment in South Beach in Miami, commonly referred to by its nickname SoBe,
just as the nickname SOHO defines the sector south of South Houston Street in
New York City, where my work as an actor and voice-over professional often took
me. I also visited SOHO for the memories it brought me and its special charms
as a unique place in the city. SoBe has a similar appeal of its own, too. It
delves beyond the simple fact that it is an international tourist beach area
where party fun is its most recognized standard. SoBe's inner life is more
complex and varied. It's kind of a micro New York without the skyscrapers. And
just like the famous city, much of what it contains can be reached by foot. If
you don't want to walk, there are taxis, which just as in New York are
constantly circulating and are almost always within sight. Then there is the
option of public transportation, which is mediocre, but adequate.
From the eighth floor the view
from the small balcony of our SoBe is directly of the South Beach shores... and
the open sea. Simply being on the balcony is seductive. There's always
something new and captivating for the eyes and other senses. No two days, or
afternoon, or hours, are the same. The pattern of the sky changes with
perpetual constancy, as does the condition of the sea. Right on the beach, the
number of people, their colors, nationalities, shapes and sizes also ebb and
flow. From the balcony the panorama is in a state of constant transformation, stamping
each moment with a unique fingerprint of beauty and wonderment. When one approaches
and sets foot on the terrace, for anyone, the sensations of space and time shift
to another level, sometimes softly and others abruptly, depending on the
weather's mood at the moment. On SoBe's balcony I've felt at close range the roar
of frantic lightning as it runs arbitrarily through densely darkened clouds.
And when the weather is calm and serene, lulled by the softness of the warm visiting
winds, I have fallen into deep sleep on our small roost.
To our grandchildren, SoBe is equally beckoning,
and there has never been a time when they haven't wanted to go there. They
enjoy themselves immensely, and on that beautiful day in July the opportunity
to go fell upon Lucas, the youngest of our daughter Charissa's two boys. She
organized her plans for the day and Lucas wasn't too thrilled about the agenda
his mother had planned for him. Since they had come to spend a few days
vacation with us, Lucas had been trying to get us to take him to SoBe. We
quickly seized the opportunity to take him there and spend some time alone with
When the children visit us, either alone or
with their families, they stay at our home in Coral Gables where there is room
to spare. Charissa and her crew had just returned from a fun-filled cruise that
they had taken with her husband's family and were all in good spirits. Judy and
I were also thrilled just to have them home again. They had arrived the
previous week from Baltimore, where they live, to spend a few days with us before
the cruise. Derek and his family had traveled from Boquete to complete our family
reunion, but had already returned to Panama. Back from their cruise, Charissa
and company stayed with us a bit longer before returning home. Nothing pleases
us more than being surrounded by our children and grandchildren, especially
when they visit us even if for just short whiles.
Another great pleasure for us is to spend
time alone with one grand-child at a time. Having one over, without the
presence of parents to influence (or inhibit) their behavior or divide the
attention required by their youthful restlessness, is a singular pleasure for
us grandparents. I greatly enjoy when my grandson is with nobody else but me
and I have his attention and companionship all to myself. They also enjoy the
chance to be alone with either of us, but they especially love spending time
exclusively with Abuelita and Abuelito.
"Lucas, do you want to go to SoBe with us?" we asked him, in
Spanish, when I saw him wandering around aimlessly.
Of course!" he immediately answered in English, with an instant shift of
mood. He is one of those children of Hispanics in the US who barely speaks
Spanish, if at all.
Our four grandchildren (Ian and Gianmarco,
the youngest of our son Derek, and Lucas and his older brother, Jaedon, already
in high school) are used to generally having some activity scheduled during
their vacation or holidays. When there is nothing planned for the day, the kids
tend to get bored, which is exacerbated when the stupefying distraction offered
by the TV no longer has an effect on them.
The one most affected by the lack of a
pre-scheduled agenda is Lucas. He starts to act up and will make up any excuse
to come over repeatedly when I'm working to ask if there's anything we might do
together. When I tell him that I can't put my work aside, the disappointment born
on his tender face fills me with guilt. I then try to explain to him that what
is taking up my time is important; and he, with his usual sweet gentleness, takes
my rejection with understanding, but disappointed. If there is no one else to
turn to, he buzzes around the house aimlessly like a little bee, searching for
a place to perch his boredom.
Lucas is a special person, with special
sensitivity and not because he's my grandson. He has a sense of himself that makes
it difficult for him to manage the contrasts with which his emotions define
reality. He knows who he is, but finds it hard to handle the emotional sensibility
that makes it difficult for him to understand himself. On one hand, he has an
innate propensity to make sense of things that affect his emotions, and he is
almost always right. But on the other hand, the mere fact of being able to
recognize his weaknesses causes insecurity which he would like to, but cannot, overcome.
This dilemma forces him to think as an existentialist and has given him a sense
of humor that he uses sharply and quickly and which is often flavored with ironic
sarcasm that serves as protective cover. When we talk, I often burst out
laughing from the witty humor of his replies. Of the four I think he's the
grandkid who gives more attention to the great questions of his existence,
which he ponders (I do not know how) intuitively. Thus his personality radiates
a lovingly deep tenderness that softens our hearts and inclines us to affection.
During one of Charissa's
previous visits with her family, I shared a magical intellectual connection
with Lucas that reaffirmed my belief that children are naturally wise and have
an innate spiritual ability to understand life philosophically. Too bad that
when they grow up this gift is replaced in most with the instilment of social
and religious dogmas that numb the innate creative rebelliousness of their
childhood. In my adult life I have had conversations with children where I have
learned first rate lessons of philosophical wisdom. Since my teens, I have been
an avid seeker of wisdom, and I cling to any experience, saying or words that
nourish the long self-learning that I have given myself to discern what is wise
in my inner and outer world. Wisdom has helped me early on to navigate the sea
of adversities and errors that get in one's way in life. When I hear
expressions of wisdom from the mind and lips of a child, they are of great
value to me, because of the purified wrappings of philosophical clarity that
inspires them. They are revealed from the understanding that intuitive wisdom often
takes precedence over knowledge in us adults, and that it's capable of showing
us more authentically our participation in the world we perceive. So when my
grandchildren surprise me with deep observations of themselves or others, I try
to always remember what I have learned from them, as I do with proverbs and
sayings that serve as philosophical beacons for when I need to rediscover, in
the dark, the lost path.
Among these moments I have had with each of
my grandchildren individually, I'm remembering now one in particular with
Jaedon, in his early years.
When I lived in New York it was easy for me
to take the train to Baltimore to visit my daughter. Penn Station was just a
few blocks away from my 5th and 30th apartment. It was
during a visit from New York, without Judy, that I shared that special moment
with Jaedon, similar to the one we had with Lucas that afternoon. Charissa took
advantage of my stay to leave Jaedon in my care and go to the movies with Rob,
her husband, or to dinner.
Lucas had not been born yet. I loved being
alone with Jaedon. Being the first grandchild – with no thoughts yet of other
grandchildren to come- Jaedon received lots of attention from me and Judy.
Living in New York gave us many opportunities to be with him. Charissa visited
us often in the Big Apple. We were happy to see her and eager to spend some
time with Jaedon alone. We adored Jaedon and Jaedon's enormous love for us was patent.
With Jaedon in my care, Charissa and Rob planned
to be back around midnight from their dinner date. It was about nine when they finally
left Jaedon in pajamas and in bed in his room on the second floor. Charissa
left strict instructions not to allow Jaedon to get out of bed, and to insist
that he get to sleep soon if he showed signs of wanting to resist going to
My daughter tends, in some cases, in the
upbringing of her children, to exercise authoritarian rule; her mother and I
think sometimes more than necessary, perhaps wanting to compensate for the
little discipline we used in educating her. She and her husband give special
care to their children. They love them and fill them with love and attention.
They also believe in the notion that for children, discipline, among other
internal controls at home, promotes a healthy structure for their development.
And hopefully they're right. Times are much more difficult for raising
children. It is likely that today I would have raised my own differently.
It may be that Charissa's insistence that I
impose my will on Jaedon that night was based on the value of the benefits of
discipline in raising children, but I think my daughter sensed - if not knew -
that her son would fight sleep at any cost because of his great desire to be
with his Abuelito - and more since I
would be alone with him. When it was just me and him, I would entertain him
with all sorts of antics that would make him burst out in joyous laughter. We
would have great fun together.
He also enjoyed just being with me, without
It was just after the familiar sound of his
parents' car drove off that I heard my Jaedon's little voice.
"What did you say, Abuelito?"
I couldn't see him, or he me, but I knew he
was at the top of the stairs. I had the light on and was facing the laptop at
Rob's small desk set in a corner of their home office area. It was time for the
test: do I adhere or not to his mother's rule and order the child back to bed? Before
deciding what to do, I again heard: "What did you say, Abuelito?", but this time a bit louder.
It was a favorite tactic Jaedon employed to
attract attention when he needed it or when he wanted someone's company to share
time with. Having me there, all to himself, and to be ordered (sentenced) to go
to bed when his desire was quite the opposite, was too much to ask from the
little boy. So, despite his mother's warnings, he decided to take his chances.
By asking "What did you say", the little guy neutralized (at least his childish
cunning assumed that much) the scolding he would get for defying the order to
go to sleep.
In the past, when in our care, the strategy
had proved successful enough. We found the ruse he used so he could keep
enjoying our company so heartwarming that we usually caved in after just a
couple of his attempts. Seeing him so happy for the success obtained by his
strategy was reward enough for us grandparents.
"What did you say Abuelito?" This time the tone and volume were enough to ensure my
attention. So, I stopped working and headed for the stairs trying my utmost not
to smile. And there he was, standing on the edge of the top step, wrapped from
head to toe in his pajamas and wearing his irresistible and disarming innocent
"Jaedon, your mother said you have to
sleep", I warned him, pretending to be firm, struggling not to grin. "You want
me to help you sleep?" I knew how to get him to sleep. I'd spin up some improvised
tales that I'd sing to him, and in a few minutes off he went. But sleep, now?
This child would have none of it.
"I want to be with you, downstairs", he
confessed. "I'm not tired."
That was all it took. The suppressed smile broke
out, and when he saw it, the little bugger knew that he had disarmed his grandpa,
and he grinned back shiningly.
Confident that he no longer needed to
negotiate to be in my company, he headed down the stairs quickly. "Be careful"
I warned, "with socks on you can slip easily. Go down slowly and watch where
you're going and what you hold onto." Too thrilled to concentrate, sure enough,
he didn't go slowly. I kept my eyes on him, and when he got close, I clapped
twice and held out my arms. He knew the code. It was an immediate invitation to
jump into them. Without hesitating, he leaped, confident that I would catch
him, as I did always. Holding a grandchild is just as delicious, if not more,
than having your own child in your arms. Grandparents know what I mean.
warning you, we can't play or make a lot of noise, you hear?" I told him for my
own safety. "Your mother made me assure her that you would sleep and if she
sees you awake when she gets back, she'll be very angry. So, no commotion."
Seeing how happy he now was to be in my
arms, I started to spoil him. "So, what do you want to do?"
want to play on the laptop. That will be quiet."
"Good choice", I confirmed, and with him
still in my arms, I started turning off lights, leaving on only the one by the
desk where I then settled him on my lap, facing his father's computer. The soft
loving joy of holding him felt so good it moved me to kiss him on the crown of
his head and embrace him tenderly. "I like being with you, Jaedon. I'm glad
we're together now" I said. And with voice warmed by the love I was feeling for
him, I defined the rules of our complicity in undermining his mother's
"I don't like going against your mom's
orders, you know. If I allow you to be with me here now, I'm only doing it
because I love you and I want to be with you too ... and I want to take
advantage of my visit to do so." And
with a bit of exaggerated seriousness, I added, "And no ifs, ands or buts. As
soon as we hear your parents' car, you run up and go to bed and pretend to
sleep, understand? They won't let you be with me anymore if they find you awake
and down here. OK?"
Abuelito", he answered as if trying
to give me the peace of mind he thought I needed in order to change the
subject. The kid would have agreed to anything, as long as I let him stay there
He was eager to show his skills on Disney's
online website. In a rush, he opened his dad's laptop, his face lighting up
with the glare. He grabbed the mouse in his tiny hand and with a rapid sequence
of clicks he skillfully moved towards the desired link. When the game menu's popped open he
turned to me and said, "Watch this, Abuelito!,
this game is really cool!" He double clicks, and out pops the goodies, and the
child is sucked into cyberspace's entertainment universe. As he navigated,
concentrated in his world of fun, I asked him a few questions to reassure him
that I was enjoying the ride with him, and ready for him to show me or talk
about whatever he wanted.
To share a child's interest and give proper
attention to what interests him in a given moment, is a gesture it deeply
appreciates, especially when given by those who they know love them deeply. And
when we acquiesce to their invitation to play, they enjoy us all the more and feel
appreciative. For us, it's equally rewarding. The time we spend attention on
them, at key moments in their lives, guarantees us long term benefits from the
enriching affection and tender love — and trust — they grant us in
When a child is joyful and in a state of
thankfulness, it's a good time to teach them useful lessons that can last a
lifetime. The opportunity deserves all the care possible. That's how the
atmosphere felt at that time with Jaedon. I wanted to enjoy it and at the same
time seek its advantages for teaching carefully. The rich sensations of love I
felt with him were to be savored. And our communication channels, wide open,
were sensitized to a good transmission of wisdom, so I let him enjoy his game
online and paid attention to what he enthusiastically wanted to show me. Once
he got tired or bored, I would take him to bed and there we would talk for
awhile about something that would instill in him a grain of learning that hopefully
would last him a good while. Then I would put him to sleep with any made-up story
that I could sing to him.
All of a sudden he stopped and straightened
up, completely abandoning his focus on the screen, took a look around and said,
"It's too dark in here Abuelito. I
don't like it when it's so dark."
"Why?" I asked him. "If we turn on the
lights your mother will be able to see you when she arrives, and you know what
that would mean."
"Yes, but I'm scared of the dark."
"Scared? Scared, shmared, Jaedon. Fear of
the dark depends on what you want to see in it. If you imagine that there are
bad things, you will see them, and if you imagine that there are good things, then
you'll see the good, and you won't be afraid anymore. Also," I told him,
certain that it would calm his fear, "I'm here with you, and nothing's going to
happen to you."
It was a good moment for some durable
learning for my grandson. Having him overcome his fear of the dark at this
early age would prepare him for the most serious fears that plague us as
adults. I believe that one of the most important obligations and
responsibilities of fatherhood is to teach one's children critical thinking, so
that they'll be uninhibited when questioning themselves or others, and to resist
when others try to impose on them deliberate authoritarian criteria which
suffocates the logic of their sense of discretion. Such education is critical,
in my opinion, for them to be able to survive anything life suddenly throws
their way without the protection and support of their parents.
Subjecting children from an early age, or
letting them subject themselves, to certain physical challenges is an
essential, although not a primordial part, of such education. What's more
important, I believe, is that they develop the mental and intuitive certainty that
will help them confront and overcome physical, social, psychological and other kinds
of adversity that often stand in our way throughout life. That moment with
Jaedon was ideal for instilling a dose of that type of discretionary thinking.
It could help him discern between what the product of his imagination is and
what is actually palpable ... and thus overcome his fear of the dark or
otherwise, of what isn't always clear and obvious to us.
"Darkness is our friend now," I revealed,
sure that he would appreciate the logic of the analogy I was offering him. "It
protects us so that when your parents get home, you'll have time to run
"Yes, but I'm still afraid" he answered,
not having been convinced.
"But why do you feel afraid?" I insisted on
asking him. Expertly moving his fingers over the keyboard of his father's
laptop, he shrugged his shoulders in a gesture of resignation.
"You have to be afraid of something".
As soon as I heard his response, I
recognized the brilliance of the philosophical lesson that the boy had just
given me. With the pure and privileged innocence of a child, he concisely and
casually presented to me a useful perspective for reflection on those times
when we ponder the senselessness of any one of our many fears that suddenly
Grateful for the wisdom of his
observation, I told him he was right and hugged him. And then I said:
"Go on, turn on the lights."
That moment with Lucas in South Beach
turned out to be similar to the one spent with Jaedon, which taught me a great
deal ... and then some. Lucas had accepted my challenge to address any serious
issue in our conversation, and was willing to allow me to choose the focus of the
conversation. I had no idea which topic to discuss, but I knew our grandson was
happy to be with us and I didn't want the subject to turn unpleasant for him.
I referred him to the conversation we had
the last time he had visited us in Miami. He and Jaedon were staying in one of
the rooms we had fixed up for them years ago for when they would come visit us,
and Lucas was already in the top bunk, set on reading a bit before going to
sleep. I approached him to say good night, but I noted that he didn't want me
to leave so quickly, made clear with the little casual questions that he uttered
whenever I showed signs of getting to the good night part. Nothing grabbed our
interest enough to keep talking about it, but I wanted to indulge his yearning
for me to stay and decided to steer the conversation to a topic I had pending
"You know Lucas, I've been wanting to tell
you that I much admire your wonderful ability to think deeply about life and to
ask yourself important questions about why
certain things happen to us as they do."
Right away the glow in his eyes and the
attention he gave me confirmed his pleasure for this type of inquiry.
"Do you remember the time I told you about
the 10 question final exam my biology teacher gave our class when I was in the
military academy, and that among the 10 questions, there was one that left us
all perplexed, because we had no clue what it had to do with biology? Do you
remember we talked about it?"
"Yes, and the question was: Why?"
"Exactly! See what I've said about you,
about what I particularly admire about you? The mere fact that you remembered
is admirable. It confirms what I said about your deep sense about things ... and that you care about these issues
"And the answer was 'Because'" he added, with a gleam in his
"That's right, wow, Lucas! I love it that
you remembered! And that's life, you know. There are questions in life that
have no other answer than that. And knowing there is no better answer, and that
more explanation isn't needed to understand its meaning, makes us realize that
life itself is a big Why and that's why it's so interestingly mysterious and
full of surprises, sometimes bitter and sometimes sweet. And it's like that
just because it is. It's very complicated to try to have an explanation for
everything. For example, how can you explain why the world exists? (He flashes
a gesture that he understands what I'm saying.) Or the oceans? Or why does
humanity behave so irrationally; on one hand it can create beautiful things such
as art and cool inventions, and on the other hand it causes such great damage
to nature? Why do you exist? Why are you how you are? Nothing more than just because can really give us an answer to
which we can say, Ah, yes, that's it."
that's why because covers it all."
and not out of laziness to give longer answers to understand the questions we
ask ourselves, but because sometimes you have to see everything like that,
broadly, so that we can realize that there are things that exist entirely just
I knew that, in his way, Lucas was
understanding the value of the perspective I was suggesting regarding his own
It was particularly important to me that we
continue on that train of thought, because Lucas has, as I too had up until the
time I was an adolescent, poor eating habits. Without much of the variety
needed in his diet, he tends to steer addictively towards sweets, and that
concerns us all. There is an epidemic of obesity among children in the U.S. and
the incidences of juvenile diabetes are on the rise. Judy and I are very
worried about his future health and his ability to change his eating habits.
But since childhood, it has been an uphill battle. Of the many attempts to get
him to eat something he doesn't "like", he usually gets his way. I figured that
maybe the lesson I was trying to instill in him about himself would give him,
although indirectly, new inner tools to deal with his problem.
Most likely a result of the difficulties
caused by his emotional sensitivity, Lucas suffers from a tense sort of nervousness
within him that worsens when under stress, usually when pressured, or rather
when he pressures himself whenever there's a challenge or task ahead which he
doesn't feel quite confident in being able to address or resolve. The incidents
with his eating are a classic example of this, as when he's questioned about
what he requests or wants to eat, or is required to try food that he totally
rejects merely because of its appearance. This causes him much stress, because
it is a family issue that he probably feels he is the cause of, or at least in
part. I always think of how healthy it would be for him if he enjoyed, with the
same calmness that he has when eating sweets, eating appropriate food that his
biological consistency deserves and requires for healthy growth.
Seeing Lucas spending time with us, all
calm and happy, showing none of his nervousness, I decided not to even touch on
the issue of food or upset him with any other matter that would make him feel
supervised or self conscious of his behavior. He was rosy-cheeked and looked
particularly handsome, and he was in a beautiful mood and displaying an entertaining
sense of humor. I didn't want to jeopardize the joy he was feeling of being
with us, so I chose to suggest a friendly topic of conversation that might
still give me an indication of his general state of mind regarding his own
life. I wanted to hear in his own words what opinion he had of his own
existence. And I didn't want to bring up the topic with a sterile "What's new?"
or "How's it going?" that we often blurt out without much meaningfulness.
On an intuitive level, Lucas has an
intellect and sense of logic that lets him easily manage the philosophical
content of subjects. His wisdom comes directly from the privilege of being a
child and the essence of the innate creativity and imagination of his
childhood. When he comes into contact with these centers within him, he allows
himself enough room for self reflection and trusts the rewards from the
philosophical answers he offers himself. In that sense, to encourage this gift of his, I
wanted to question him about how he was viewing the results of his experience
of living his own life.
Deep you might say, and rightly so, but it
is an area that the boy handles well.
As introduction to the subject I was about
to propose to him, I reminded him of the conversation we had months before
about my distinguished, pipe smoking, biology professor during my sophomore
year of high school. In the final exam of 10 essay questions, the fifth was just
"Why?", and nothing else. The entire class was taken by surprise when the
teacher passed out the test with instructions there could be no talking. The
looks and expressions we flashed each other was mute proof of the bewilderment each
one of us felt by the unexpected and incomprehensible nature of the question.
The next day, when we received the results, we learned that only one student had
gotten it right.
And just as I was able to understand the
obvious logic and wisdom of the question when the answer was revealed to us, so
did Lucas, but at the moment I posed the question to him in the context of the
story. In fact, he almost got the answer on his own, not with one word, but a
few. But, I, in turn, as most of my colleagues, was completely stumped when I first
encountered it. It was "Because." It never occurred to me.
When I reminded Lucas of the meaning of the
lesson behind the story about this exam, he tuned into those corners of his
mind where his innate sensitivity for philosophy lies. Seeing him willing to dig
in deeper, I asked: "In these 9 years of your life, when you look back and see
the path your life has taken until now, how do you feel about how your life is
That got him thinking. His look confirmed it.
And also that he liked the question. He thought for a second or two, took his lips
from the straw in his soda, and said, "What do you mean?"
"Okay, let me put it this way. In these
nine years of your life, and those years you remember and have been knowing
yourself, and observing, consciously or not, the experiences that you've lived,
happy or sad, difficult or not, at home and outside your home with your parents
or relatives and friends, where you live or the places you have visited, your
experiences at school or outside it. All this time you have been living so many
things, which together already form a good story of who is the Lucas that you
know well, the story that begins in some place in your memory and whose end you
still do not know. And as you live, that story continues to grow, like a movie
whose end is still unknown, in which you're the star, the main protagonist,
with the participation of other characters that are part of your life, like
your parents, your brother, me, your grandmother, friends, everybody who has
been with you, the main character in your movie.
And as in the movies, these characters,
including you, sometimes have a good time and sometimes they don't, because
that's life. For example, the hero of a film doesn't become who he is, nor gets
to have courage, without undergoing difficult tests that sometimes make him
think he won't be able to overcome the obstacles standing in his way. He
sometimes even feels overwhelmed and weak, frustrated and depressed because he
thinks he might not have the strength or courage to keep going. But somehow he
asks himself serious questions and realizes that perhaps the only thing left
for him to do is to fight to keep forward. In our lives there are also times
when things go very well for us.
All this, the entire mix of experiences,
shapes our lives, our movie about ourselves and we can observe it all, because
no one really knows our own story as much as ourselves. So if you can see where
you are now in your life, in your story, in your movie, and take a look back,
you'll clearly see the path you have travelled. And the experiences that stand
out most in your memory is what makes your life interesting, and it becomes
even more interesting because as you live it you can dress up your movie with
new stories from new experiences.
The good news is that while you're living
your movie, you can take time to look back at it to check out how it's going so
far. And while there may be sad and painful parts of it, you have to enjoy them
anyway, because who knows when your movie will end. We can die old - or young
-, from an illness or an accident, or just because, but the important thing is
that we enjoy our movie now, the good, the bad and the ugly in it. And while it
lasts, what never changes in your life, is that you are not only the star of
your movie, but the one who knows your story best."
Through it all, Lucas kept very attentive,
listening closely to everything I had to say. And although the waitress
interrupted occasionally, I would pick up where I left off without losing the
"Now then, my beloved grandson, back to my
question. With all this in mind, knowing that the story of your life is your
great movie, let me ask you again: How is your life going, how do you feel your
life is treating you at your 9 years of age?"
As he leans back in his chair, he looked
away, across the street, past the vacationers and bathers on the beach, and beyond
the waves onto the far of the sea, as if he needed to spread the great sense
contained in everything I had told him across the horizon in order to distill
its meaning and be ready for a clear and honest response.
"My life is going great!" he answered me
with measured enthusiasm mirrored in the confidence in his eyes. "I have a few
'tweaks' to make here and there, but overall I can't complain." The perceptive capacity
for self reflection he demonstrated with his answer made his grandmother and me
quite proud. Once again he showed us the deep thinking he's capable of.
"You have no idea how proud you make me
"And me too," his grandmother added.
"But let's see," I followed, "now tell me, what would those
tweaks be, for example?"
Without hesitation: "Well, I have to work
on my problem with food. It's not easy for me, but I know if I give myself time
and work on it, I'll be able to handle
that better. I also have some school issues that I have to try to fix. How I
use my time, and perhaps take my studies more seriously. And there are other
little things here and there."
"The honesty of what you've just said is
admirable, Lucas" I say to him in praise of the wisdom of his response. "Your
grandma and me, it gives us great comfort knowing you are so wise. You have the
ability to know yourself in such a way that we can tell that you'll deal with
the ups and downs in your life, and I know you'll beat your problem with food
in due time."
From that moment on, the remainder of our time
with our grandson proved even more delicious and rewarding than we had
anticipated. For me, especially. His attitude about himself and his life made
me reflect on my own problems and how they were affecting the new crossroads I
faced at 65. The fact that I find myself now, at this moment, writing, having arrived
at this most important and personal stage of my website, is the direct result
of what I was able to overcome, thanks to the lesson that in return I learned
about my own life that evening we shared with Lucas. The collection of virtual
documentation shown—and to be shown—here at rogeliopretto.com of the remembrances and the memories of the
experiences I have had throughout my lifelong relationship with art, has been a
personal dream for many years and which almost withered from my procrastinations.
The passing of time hardened my mental block that kept preventing me from starting.
I didn't know where or how to begin the documentary (to call it as such) about
the paths I've taken through the story of my life where art has left its
And I don't specifically mean my trajectory
through the arts, or my achievements as a painter and actor, since long-term
achievements, those traditionally regarded as success in these disciplines,
have certainly not been mine. My relationship with art is the one I have had strictly
on a personal level, from a very young age, in the manner, outside the norm and
artistically passionate, in which I have lived and perceived and reacted to the
events and experiences that most strongly mark the development of my story. As
I pointed out to Lucas, the contents of his life, seen through his eyes and
memories like a tale lived in his own flesh, are a tremendously interesting and
valuable story at his memory's reach. The contents of my own have had that same
particular appeal for me. And I've always seen it that way. Thus, despite the
achievements and failures that mark its long journey, my life is still full of
philosophical lessons that continue to lead me on the path to wisdom. I've
always wanted to document these lessons, so that they can at least remain a
testimony and legacy to my children and theirs. This way, particularly when my
life here is done, they would have an informative source, personally mine and
reliable, of these reflections about Being that I've regarded with such
importance for so long.
When the phenomenon of the Internet made
its presence in our reality and was made accessible to anyone in the world, the
idea of having my own website to post the stories of my personal thoughts and experiences
there, in the endlessness of cyberspace, greatly appealed to me. That way not
only would they be shared with my descendents, but with any visitor who came
upon the site.
The fact that I can finally publish my movie on the Internet, albeit
partially and progressively building it with new chapters, for the judgment and/or
enjoyment of anyone who's interested, has been made possible by what I have
learned about myself while being a grandfather interested in his grandson's
welfare. Intending that my conversation with Lucas end up being a lesson to
improve his capacity for survival, by improvising the metaphor of his movie, I was
finally able to overcome the barriers that kept me from conceptualizing the
libretto and production of mine.
I hope you enjoy it.