Soundings Soundings


BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 16 September 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:713
  1. Ricardo S Silva, psychiatrist
  1. São Paulo, Brazil

    My brother and I step out of the cab and into my relatives' apartment in Rio de Janeiro, ready for the party—today the family has gathered to celebrate my grandfather's 90th birthday.

    We enter the room crowded with aunts, uncles, cousins (first and second)—only his great granddaughter and her mother couldn't come today—hug and kiss everybody, all the time pressing forward to the centre of the chaos. Grandfather is sitting in his most comfortable chair, surrounded by dozens of his descendants, trying to rise from the chair to greet us both and to show us the gifts that he has already received.

    This is a very special occasion, not only for Grandfather, but for all of us. For the first time in years, all my cousins are together in the same room. We have seen each other in small groups at special occasions, such as marriages, baptisms, Christmas, and New Year, but I haven't seen some of them since we were children.

    And what do I see now? My older, second cousins, who were small kids when I saw them last, are now young men and women getting their university degrees, talking about their plans and dreams, while the youngest of them all, still learning to be a toddler, walks on unsteady legs from his mother to Grandfather, all big eyes and open mouth.

    And all of us are here because of him, who surely didn't dream of this moment when he came from Portugal in 1951 (almost 50 years ago—another good excuse for a big party) with Grandmother, who died some years ago, my father, and his sister and older brother.

    Here we are, all his descendants, streams flowing towards an unknown future, who, for the sake of the occasion, started to run backwards to meet our common source, our Grandfather, laughing at our jokes, listening and participating in our conversations with a lucid mind and sharpened wit, the sort of thing that Walt Whitman sang in his poem: “Do you know that Old Age may come after you with equal grace, force, fascination?”

    But all things must end; the night is coming, we hug and kiss and say our goodbyes to one another— at least, until next time.

    And all of us are here because of him

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