Wanderlino Arruda
Djalma Souto


João Morais, My Grandpa

Wanderlino Arruda

Of all the people that I have known well, old Joao Morais, my grandfather, seems to have been the only man that has ever lived more than eighty years of everlasting joy. It was as if he was a lifetime card-carrying member of an exclusive “happiness club”. He had all rights possible except the right to be anything other than happy. He was, let there be no doubt, like a year-round Santa Claus, giving gifts of fraternity to all. He, living each day as it came, in harmony with everyone, painted a harmonious panel of colors drenched in rich wisdom.
I knew him during my first years of childhood on his big cattle farm near Salinas, Brazil, in a big country house, surrounded by a vast forest of planted fruit orchards and gardens, which was located between a swift-moving stream of crystalline water and the main access road, dry sun-baked clay and dust, on which NOBODY had the right to pass without first stopping for at least a quick visit. There, each and every visitor was received with the greatest of cordiality and after the initial compliments were offered, were taken to refresh themselves with cool water, shaking off the red dust and have a hot mug of sweet, freshly made milk and coffee. Besides this, the new friend was further awarded some soft tapioca cakes, privileged sweets, and then involved in an invigorating conversation about their “Brazilian way of life”. Knowing how to appropriately administer the daily passage of hours with the work to be done in the pastures and plantations, he lived mainly for the building of meaningful relationships, telling stories, giving advice… carefully recreating each one with the delicate and tender mission of transmitting happiness or something meaningful and good.
Granddad was, above all, a good man, a solid and constant compass for many souls in this wonderful world, lost or otherwise. That, because a better advisor could never be found in that big-small-huge tract of land, between the Pardo River and Salinas. Gramps was a big strong old guy, red as a Viking, in that blistering sun. He had a vast snow-white head of hair, which lent him airs of well-conserved youth and an enormous and brilliant halo of charisma. When I was a kid, I used to think that his hair was so white because of the intense year-round sun of the sugar cane fields, where he worked day after day, until just a few days before he passed away. I thought he had been sent by God to straighten up the world and its creatures, in a way that, like Tantalus, was encumbered with endless effort. No sickness, not even the one that followed him to the grave, was able to prevent him from living his good life with joyful healthy habits, fruit grown from a life of complete plenitude. I had seen him, many times; coming home from the fields, hoe on shoulder, cracked leather bag hung around his neck, in which he carried small provisions and whatnot to work. There he would come, always grinning from ear to ear, whistling his favorite country tunes.
Every evening, after dinner with the whole family and from which no one could be absentee, he would lie himself in an old hammock, yellowed with age. It was then that his much cherished guitar would come off the wall where it ceremoniously hung to become the center of attractions in a suave evocation of sweet memories of days gone by, and that would only come to stop very late, the weight of that day having the decisive last word, sending him - and everybody else, me included - to bed. My granddad was born far away in old Bahia state near Caitete, I think, on a glorious day of Nature’s celebration. Since a boy, mule drawn trader, he lived a life of fields and dusty roads sleeping in the open, eating beans, raw sugar and cassava meal and breathing in the early dawn mists. He himself used to say that it was during that period that he met a lovely young girl by the name of Ritinha, a great-great granddaughter of Indians, and whom, six months later, became his fiancée and then, one year after, his wife. It was then that he watched his home, year-by-year, filling with a clamorous group of kids and grandkids, celebrating their God-given family existence, and in which he and his beloved Ritinha lived in perfect harmony for more than half a century.
I wasn’t there, but it is said, that when he did pass away, he left us as he had always lived; laughing, smiling and talking, recommending all not to shed any tears or feel sorrow of any kind. Even though he was a countryman and of little schooling, he was a brilliant storyteller, a pure, sincere and natural illustrator of souls, things and souls of things. Truthfully speaking, my granddad had so much life experience under his belt, such diplomatic bearing, such an incredible fountain of intelligence and caring that everyone could do nothing but admire. All that had the privilege of knowing him say that he was a pleasant and joyful man, a true builder of friendships, always considered with much interest and pleasure.

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