Happy Father's Day!
'Alvaro, Al, Uncle Al, Dad, Chief, Papa, Papa 2. These are all names my grandfather has been called by all of us. But if you were to ask him his full name he would pause, tilt his head down with a little smirk, then in one long proud breath explain, 'Alvaro Mario Francisco Gonzales Vierro Cabral Santos' and snicker to himself very matter-of-factly. Who knows if this was Papa's actual name? It didn't matter. He always had his own jokes and original one-liners ready at a drop of a hat. Shake his hand, he'd ask if you're 'sawing wood'. Get a little wise with him he threaten to shoot you with his knife. Still funny after the 10, 11, and 12 time you heard it. Sort of. One of his best gems, and something he said EVERYTIME time I left his home "Stay away from the woods, the squirrels are looking for nuts!" *Wait Wait Wait
I don't know if my grandfather knew this, but he has provided me with life lessons through all of his funny quirks, stories, and habits. Sundays and Tuesdays had to be his favorite days of the week. That's when he ate the best. Tuesday was spent at Auntie Cathy's and Sunday Dinners at my mother's or Auntie Gail's. If dinner was at 4:00pm, he pulled up at 3:59 with bread and soda in hand, ready to eat. I guess you could say he had a passion for food. Like most things he did, Papa was very meticulous when he ate. He had a very specific way, his way, one bite of each food item working around the plate. It was art. I remember when I was young, not being excused from the table until everyone was done. Thanks, Papa. When I was finally able to keep up with him, we would be the last ones at the table eating. It was just another lesson Papa had taught me without knowing. Enjoy your food, enjoy every bite, but more importantly, enjoy the people you are eating with.
My Grandfather always tried to look his best. Maybe he thought he had to be ready to go out dancing at a moments notice. He took pride in his appearance for each and every occasion. *Heritage. No matter formal or casual, Papa always had on his watch on and a handkerchief in his back pocket. He told me I should always wear a watch because you never know who is going to ask you for the time. The handkerchief, though, I always remember the handkerchief. For Papa, it was more for wiping that big beautiful nose of his. When I was 14 or 15 I asked him about it, and he said it is just something you should have on you. So he gave me one that had a monogrammed 'S' on it. Now, I have my own collection for every occasion. And Papa was right, a young lady asks you the time, sneezes, or spills something around her; you can be sure to check your watch or provide her with your fresh hanky, she'll be impressed. Just assure her you haven't used it for your big, beautiful nose. Papa Lesson: Look and feel your best and always be prepared, you never know who you're going to run in to.
Papa was also proud of the fact that he played semi-pro soccer and our passion for the game is something we shared and talked about a lot. He tried to make it out to as many grand kid's and cousin's sports games as possible. And no matter what the outcome, win or lose, he always had a dollar waiting for you. I probably took those dollars for granted thinking about how I'm going to spend it on candy & soda at the snack bar. Now looking back, I can see it was just another one of Papa's Life Lessons: Work hard and you will be rewarded.
How about his lawn and the cars? He loved tending to the lawn and cars. Watering, admiring, critiquing, watering some more... Then he would work on the lawn. He was very particular about how he wanted this done. I had been doing it for years and even when I worked up the nerve to tell him there were other ways, they weren't his, so they weren't right. I always caved and Papa could not have been happier with the result. He bragged about that lawn and loved it, not as much as his family, but close. When I went away to college, Vincenzo took over lawn duties. Papa told me he did it just like I did, which meant he did it Papa's way, which meant it was perfect. Papa taught me this lesson and something my father reiterated my entire life: Do it once and do it right.
Through the upbringing of my mother and father and the many Life Lessons of Papa, I have grown to the man I am today. I hope that all of you have similar experiences with Alvaro Santos that I have. I just ask that you take a look back at the times you shared with him, take those lessons that he taught all of us, and make someone's life a little brighter because of it. I know he will always be looking down and smiling. But be sure to stay away from the woods, someone told me the squirrels are looking for nuts.'
Alvaro Mario Francisco Gonzales Vierro Cabral Santos
1/12/25 - 3/22/10