Nhu Pazinho

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Admit it, your grandma, vovô, nana, pépère, or abuela are probably the coolest people you know. Grandparents are always on your side and they rarely yell at you (well, at least less than your parents do). Here are a some reasons why grandparents are always winning:

  1. They are your personal public defenders.  They will defend you no matter what you did and they’ll represent you free of charge.
  2. Every time you visit, they’ll give you money or food (large amounts of food) or both.
  3. They’ve got stories for days and even if you’ve heard the story multiple times, you’ll still listen politely.
  4. They’ve got more inspirational quotes than a Kendrick Lamar parody account.
  5. They’ll still boss your parents around, which is a beautiful sight to see.

Today is Father’s Day but I couldn’t help thinking about my grandfather. My grandfather, Venceslau, better known as Nhu Pazinhu to the Cape Verdean community, passed away 6 months ago. Instead of calling him vovô (Portuguese/Cape Verdean criuolo for grandfather) everyone called him Papa because he was a father to everyone. He was a father of 9 children, grandfather of 17 grandchildren, and great grandfather of 10 great grandchildren. Add all of those kids up and that equals an average Cape Verdean family. Papa was a peaceful man who rarely spoke, yet his quiet personality influenced generations. All of my uncles and aunts are calm and reserved, rarely yell (unless you’re wasting paper towels in the kitchen), and best of all, they let you live your life. Papa taught his children that humility was more than just a trait, it was a lifestyle. My grandfather had many talents and was an intelligent man, but he would never force his opinions on you. Growing up, Papa would come over my house every Sunday after mass. He’d shuffle around the house, rosary in hand, and pray. After a few hours, my father would bring up something, anything religious to get my grandfather going. Their debates were a sight to see, because it was the only time I’d get to see my grandfather riled up. Nhu Pazinhu’s version of riled up was him raising his voice to an “indoor voice” level. The debates would sometimes get heated, but my grandfather would always let my father speak, listen intently, and acknowledge my dad’s thoughts. Even if the man disagreed with you, he listened.

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January 1994, My first birthday. Is that Denzel?! Sidney Poitier? No, that’s my grandpa.

Papa was a talented tailor, who taught himself how to sew and design clothes. My grandpa only wore suits, even when he moved to a nursing home. Future President/Rapper(?) Macklemore even referenced my grandfather in his historic 2013 hit, Thrift Shop: “I’ma take your grandpa’s style, I’ma take your grandpa’s style, No for real – ask your grandpa – can I have his hand-me-downs?” Since his days in Cape Verde, my grandfather would sew clothes for many people in his community. Many times, people could not afford to pay Papa but he would still complete the order, free of charge. Papa’s mentality was never “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”. He did what he did because that was what he knew.

I never saw my grandfather talk down to anyone. He was a patient man who prayed all day and cared for those around him. Whether in Praia or Pawtucket, my grandfather would walk miles to pray for people, many times people he did not know. Papa was selfless and his quiet compassion is what I admired the most. It is a gift to impact a person’s life without saying many words. He didn’t express love in the “typical” way. Instead of running up to him and waiting for a kiss on the cheek, I would stick my hand out, palm up, wait for him to place his hand on my palm, bring our joined hands to my forehead, and he would bless me, abençoe, in Portuguese. Nhu Pazinhu would greet everyone with a abençoe. I’ve only kissed my grandfather twice in my life. The first time was during my 10th birthday party at United Skates of America. I wanted all of my friends from school to know that the fly guy in a full suit with a cane in his hand was indeed my grandpa. The second time was the night he passed away. Papa taught me that love isn’t just hugs and kisses, love is about acknowledging a person’s thoughts and opinions. Love is selfless, serious, and a commitment. Papa was committed to his family and made sure that we all learned to love one another. Loving who we are would allow for us to care for those around us, no matter where we end up. My grandfather’s passing was one of the worst experiences of my life. Yes, he was 89 when he passed and lived a long life, but a death is something that you can never prepare yourself for. These past six months, I’ve had the time to reflect on my relationship with Papa. After Papa’s death, my family grew closer together and stronger than ever. We’re still mourning his loss, but we’ve learned to celebrate along the way. This Father’s Day, we celebrate Nhu Pazinho.

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