Until recently I used to think I had no regrets. I figured that even the mistakes I had made in the past were important chunks of my life. They had made me and my life the way it was so there was no reason to regret them. Instead, I believed they were stepping stones toward something good. I still have that belief but as I get (much) older I find that I do have some regrets, mistakes or omissions that cannot be fixed and that didn’t really develop into anything positive.
One of those things is never having taught my grandma to read and write. My grandmother was one of ten children (nine girls and one boy) that grew up in rural Portugal in what probably would have been called a homestead here in the US. They were very poor and, being mostly girls, only a few learned basic literacy skills. My grandma married an equally illiterate man and spent her whole life never being able to read a word rather than her own name (which she taught herself to write). I remember her often mentioning that she would have loved to be able to read and it kills me now that I seem to never have considered teaching her.
My grandma was from very humble origins but she always aspired at more, so I have to wonder what learning how to read and write would have done for her quality of life. Being a bookworm myself and not being able to imagine a world without the written word, I wonder how much richer my grandmother’s life might have been if she could have read books or write letters. Yes, I was a child and then a teenager and as such, I guess it never occurred to me (that I can remember at least) that maybe I could have changed things for her. Now, guilt is what I am left with. The teacher in me cringes at the missed opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life; especially in the life of someone I loved very much.
I can only imagine her joy at the chance of having the magic world of literature open up to her. The pride she would have felt writing her own notes and letters or being able to read a recipe in a cook book. The wonder of learning new things and experience a world that she could only dream of… I missed out on the chance of giving her an amazing gift and I am truly sorry.
This blog entry today is my way of apologizing to her and honor a lady that in spite of her limitations was always an inspiration for me. Avó Florinda, this is for you with love from your granddaughter.