Great People I admire of whom I want my children to know: My Grandmother

As we were coming home from our vacation, my older son was all in tears. He was already missing his cousins. He wanted to see them everyday. I tried to console my little guy saying that I knew how he felt because I would also love to see some people everyday. I thought it should work, but instead my son demanded details. “Like who?” he asked sobbing. “Who would you like to see everyday?”

Who would I like to see everyday, indeed? For a loner and introvert like me there is no apparent answer to this question. I love to have my family around on a daily basis but apart from my three boys, I’m pretty selective. However, there is one more person that I definitely miss. It’s my grandmother, Stefania.

She played a very active role in my childhood and beyond.  In her very simple and quiet ways, she was always there for me, believing in me and  supporting my choices, even the unreasonable ones. It’s not that she was approving of them. She was just patiently waiting until I would find my way. Her support was the greatest motivator to live right. But for what I admire her the most is who she was.  Her childhood was mostly taken away by the war, after which she spent her life working hard.,  She raised four children and fostered two grandchildren. Life didn’t pamper her. You could see her pain in her eyes,  yet, she has never complained about anything. She has never been bitter or disgruntled. Actually, she’s been the most selfless, giving and generous person I’ve met. I remember once we were chatting about winning  a lottery and what we would do with all the money. She wanted to give it to her poor neighbors with little children. She didn’t have the money to give, but she often brought them fresh fruit and vegetables from her garden.

My grandma is 84 now. While many old wounds have healed, her life is far from bliss. A few years ago she lost her speaking skills after a stroke.  I don’t even know if she understands me when I talk to her on the phone, but I do know we communicate regardless.  My biggest regret though is that now that I have so many questions to her, a woman to woman,  all she can do is to respond to me with her weary look and a distant smile. I will never know more.

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Great People I admire of whom I want my children to know: Iker Casillas

Obviously, I’d love to be a hero in my children’s eyes. Even better, a super-hero. I’d like them to see me as an embodiment of virtues.  But I know that sooner or later they will see me through. Next to my strengths, they will discover my weaknesses and they will have nothing else left but love their mom with all her flaws. But they will still look for their heroes elsewhere and I will support that. I want my children to learn from other people, to admire the great minds and be inspired by success.  And if they happen to need any guidance in their hero hunt, I will have a little list of great personas ready for them. From my accepting grandmother to modest Jamie Oliver,  I wish my kids could find their talents, strengths and humbleness inspirational.

Considering the heat of the World Cup, it is only natural to start the list off with a footballer, whose charisma brought me under his spell, even though I’m a very casual football enthusiast. I’m talking of course about Iker Casillas. Regardless of what happened in Brazil a few weeks ago, I can’t stop admiring living football legend.

The first time I heard of Iker Casillas was during the 2008 Euro Cup. He caught my eye as he reminded me of my brother. The more I was watching him, though, the less I was thinking about his seemingly familiar features and the more I was getting intrigued by his outstanding qualities. I couldn’t believe that with all the attention he’s been getting and a long list of honors and achievements, he has somehow managed to remain genuine, hardworking and so utterly humble. There seems to be nothing arrogant about him. He intimidates, but only with his massive talent. He strikes, but with focus and composure. Over the years, this outstanding goal keeper has so consistently proven his greatness that even the unfortunate tournament in Rio can’t take the glory away from him. What happens in Rio stays in Rio and Iker Casillas should stay in Real Madrid and La Roja. If he chooses so. We deserve to see more of this most inspiring goalkeeper. I hope we will.

And I hope that, like Casillas, my children will choose hard work and humbleness as a way to reach their dreams.