Updated: Oct 2
The day my dad was born in the 1940s. The same date he got married decades later. It is also the day I graduated from college in the 2000s and the day I tragically lost a friend two years ago. A day to be remembered. A day to be reminded not to take life for granted.
My dad was the kind of guy who would easily become the center of attention. He was always joking around and telling all kinds of stories; from his road trips to his years in the Brazilian Air Force Academy. He would tell stories about my brothers and my childhood then travel back in time to his own. He was, indeed, a funny and entertaining guy; he was capable of turning the saddest stories into a comedy show, even when talking about himself.
For instance, there is one story that actually breaks my heart, but the way he would tell it—no matter how many times he shared it with us—he would always make us crack up. It's a story about when he was little; apparently his ears weren't up to his mom's quality standards so she used to tape them to the side of his head to see if they would improve his appearance. However, I am not sure how well it worked. I'm pretty much sure he didn't see the results himself.
When one of my brothers, who turned out to be a very good-looking guy, was born, my grandmother looked at him and had to take him to the bathroom where there was a window with more light to see him better. She wasn't sure if it was too dark in the room or if he was just, in fact, very ugly. She concluded that the room wasn't that dark, after all. He would tell this story in front of both of them. If it was during a meal, we had to be very careful to not choke while we laughed.
Thankfully, I grew up witnessing his ability to make people smile even at the saddest moments of life. When I was in my early teens, I lost someone dear to me for the very first time, my godmother. A person who cared a lot about me and one of the few who took the time and was interested enough to hear what I had to say... She suddenly passed after suffering a pulmonary embolism. When we were at her wake, my dad by my side, my grandmother decided to stroll around the facility to check out the deceased next door. She returned quickly and very unhappy after realizing the departed was wearing white socks and didn't have their dentures in. Noticing my disbelief in what we had just heard in such circumstances, my dad didn't think twice before grabbing a pen and a piece of paper from his shirt pocket.
"OK, Mom. What did you just say? Let's make a personalized wake and funeral wish list here for you: no white socks, yes to dentures... Anything else you would like me to add to the list?"
Even she wasn't able to help it. We started to laugh, quietly. For a second, he made us all forget why we were there, putting a smile on our faces in a moment that felt nearly impossible to smile.
Just now, as I write this post, I'm continuing to appreciate I have so much more of my father in me then I ever thought. My mom always made it clear how I was just like him, reminding me of my short fuse and temperament; my lack of patience with many things. But I do now realize how many of his good qualities I also have, as well as my recently discovered passion for writing. In this case, I know exactly where it came from.
It was with him that I learned to share my thoughts and feelings on paper. Paper is definitely a very good listener. Furthermore, he taught me many other very important things in life, for example, not to care about quantity when it came to friends. He always told me that true friends can be counted on the fingers of one single hand. For that reason, he said I should always focus on finding good ones instead of trying to be surrounded by people. He used to say that a person who has too many friends doesn't really have any good ones. He was definitely right about that!
He also taught me how important it is to travel; to experience new things and places. It adds so much knowledge and allows us to grow as individuals. On the other hand, he did tell me it really wasn't a good idea to get married on a birthday, since it could turn into a bad gift idea.
However, I am certain that a great birthday gift would have been for him to see his last child graduate. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to be a part of my college graduation ceremony. That January 13, after attending school for over six years, I received my diploma from business school. He wasn't there physically, but he did make his presence known in other ways.
That day, I learned it is of greater importance to know who I am and what I am capable of, regardless of whether others are aware of it, than making people believe I am something I am not. How so? Basically, because of the fact that I didn't really care to be the valedictorian of my class. However, candidates had a lot of competition and the winner presented a crappy draft of her speech to the group that turned out to be something she found on the internet.
Realizing that all the arguments going back and forth weren't really the solution to the problem, instead of joining the crowd pointing fingers and complaining (which is easy to do), I decided to write the speech myself and share it with her. I told the valedictorian she was more than welcome to use mine as a template to inspire her. Instead, she ended up requesting permission to use the entire speech. I gladly allowed her to do so, as long as we had the approval from the majority of the group.
Everybody really liked the material, except for one person.
"I hope I don't find this on Google as well!" she fussed.
"You can look for it as much as you would like to. You will not find it," I confidently replied.
She never got back to me. I wonder if it's because she is still googling it...
That afternoon, I proudly sat with my colleagues and watched the valedictorian get all the laughs and applause from guests and spectators, beginning to end. No mention of my name even as a contributor, nor a thank you in private. Meanwhile, some of my former classmates and friends who were highly offended and in disbelief wondered how I possibly was so cool about it.
The truth is, while I stood up and clapped, I watched her walk back from the podium with, by the way, one of her heels broken, avoiding eye contact with me and sit on the front row right in front of me. I was thinking how sad it probably was to be in her place; to know that while she got all the attention she desired, it was for something she knew she wasn't even capable of writing. I, on the other hand, sat there invisible and unknown, but extremely proud of myself because I knew what I was capable of.
I did appreciate that my friends expressed how unhappy they were with her. But that's what real friends are for—support and to be by our side. To make us laugh and to help us to grow just by being themselves. And if there's one thing I've learned from #alwaysreddy, it is to just try to relax and enjoy life, to have a good time. He was that kind of friend who didn't need to be in your life too long for you to want to enjoy his company. He had a super cool vibe. A beautiful smile and a captivating laugh.
In fact, I knew Aligri for just a few years before he passed away exactly two years ago. But life has taught me to never forget two kinds of people: the ones who give you a hand and the ones who try to push you down. When I joined the running club, I was living in Miami for just over a year. I had no friends, so I was hoping to get to meet new people. When I walked in for my first social event, along with other nice fellas (yes! including you, Disil!), he spent almost the entire evening chatting with me. He was welcoming and friendly; someone who made me feel like it was a safe place to be myself.
The next morning, I saw him during our morning runs as I did many other Saturdays. Every time I talk about him, two images come right to my mind, one is of him wearing a red top and black shorts. He started to run very slowly, but after the first mile he passed me and sped up. He was fast! The other image is a mixture of his beautiful smile and the sound of his laugh. Last time we met at a social event for the run club, we spent a long time talking about India and many cultural aspects of his country.
But there were many other social events in between. One of them was in February when I made one of my three-layer cakes, and he kept coming back for more and more slices. He even wanted to take some home. I told him he had to share!
One of the things my dad always told me was to not owe people money, no matter how much it was. During a night out when we went bowling, he took care of the payment and we were supposed to pay him back. But every time I saw him, I didn't have his $10. It would drive me crazy, but not him. He kept telling me to not worry about it. Right after a trip to Brazil, I saw him on a Friday evening. We were celebrating the birthday of a mutual friend. I was so excited to see him, not only because I really enjoyed his company, but because I finally was going to be able to give him his $10.
"Look! I finally have your cash!" I eagerly exclaimed while stretching my arm and handing it to him.
"No. Don't worry about it. Keep it and just use it to buy something for yourself," he affirmed with his Indian accent.
It was training season, so Aligri and I had to wake up early to head to Key Biscayne the following morning. We decided not to stay for long. He had arrived at the restaurant a little later and wanted us to stay longer.
"We have to wake up early tomorrow."
"Seriously? You guys are going all the way there to run five miles?" he quizzed us.
"I know, right?!" we all laughed.
We hugged. We said our goodbyes. A bit over a week later, he physically left us. As someone else said, now he is running on the streets of gold.
He is forever in our hearts and minds. I have no doubt we all have a mission here in this world. It might be that he fulfilled his. Maybe not, but I am certain that he made a difference in the life of many others, not just me.
For that, #alwaysreddy will be always remembered, not only because of who he was, but because he lives in us.
BTW, here is what I bought for myself. Every time I cook or bake, he is on my mind.