Every family has some kind of drama to tell. Some dark weird story about how things ended up the way they were the moment you tried to understand the dynamics you`re in. My family has a plot like that. It`s somewhat like opening the Wikipedia page of us and reading the definition section.
My grandfather was in World War II and met my grandmother after running away from Yugoslavia. They married and came to Brazil, then went to Uruguay, Paraguay and back to Brazil. My mother was born along the way, in Uruguay.
Countless times I`ve heard about how hard it was for my grandfather to run from the Nazis. While I was a kid, this was my favorite story and my grandfather was something like my personal WWII hero. My grandmother, in the other hand was a part of the Italian aristocracy and wanted to remain that way, even living in a small village near a beach in Brazil.
How hard was that? Besides the heroic history of fleeing Europe, how much of themselves they lost on the way? While I grew, I saw countless fights, sadness, and bitterness arise in their eyes. As an adolescent, I tried to keep in touch with them, but the fact that they were stuck in a cycle that would never end made me move away from them. The toll of being in a war and moving to a country with such a different culture was just too high. Slowly I saw my grandparents drawn in time while becoming ghosts of themselves. I just could not stand being around them anymore.
For long years, silence was all we traded and this month I finally felt it was not enough. I took a plane and went for a weekend with them, on an attempt to jumpstart a mostly dead relationship. Upon getting there I saw what I`ve already seen thousand times. A sad old couple stuck on an emotional limbo, punishing one another for the loss of everything they once were. I asked my grandfather to take me to the beach so I could take some pictures (and some air). He drove me to a far place on the beach were he said he did some exercises occasionally. “I just come here and hang in this tree for a while, to warm up for my walk”. I turned, camera in hands (I was shooting the sea) and I saw my grandfather, hanging on a tree branch looking at me and smiling.
And I shot and I cried inside.
I mean, WHAT WAS THAT? The bitterness, gone. His face had a genuine smile and I glimpsed happiness. My old grandfather was still alive inside that shell. The whole thing lasted a minute, maybe, but it made my trip worth every second.
In the end, all the sadness I carried, for being so far and for the impossibility to take them out of the path they`re stuck in, diminished a little. No one can change the past, and no one should fight another person`s fight in its place. One can, however, and should fight, fiercely, for the right of someone`s soul to remain naïve and alive, even after 90 years and a war.