This post has no “educational slant”; it is just a personal story of something I experienced, and I wanted to share. If you are looking for an educational post, regularly scheduled programming will start again with the next post.
About eleven years ago, with my brother Alec and friend JoJo, we went to see some of my relatives in Astros, Greece. Astros is one of the most beautiful places I have even been in the world, but can readily admit that I am biased, as it is where my father was born. From what I experience living in North America, this is a place that provides me a “calm” that I feel nowhere else. It is a unique place.
Still living there today are my aunts and cousins, and although I had not seen them for at least 25 years, we connected immediately. My Greek is extremely limited, as well as their English, but we can sit and be around each other. When I look at my aunts, I see my father, not only in their eyes and mannerisms but their hands. My father had extremely thick fingers, and the wrinkles in them are in theirs as well. I cherish seeing the reminders of my dad that I see in them.
My one aunt, Thea Soula (Thea meaning aunt in Greek), seemed to have an extraordinary connection to me. She would tear up anytime I was around, and she would continuously rub my hands and back and look at me. After first seeing her those eleven years ago, she would consistently touch my Adam’s apple and say something, although I couldn’t understand what it was. One day, I went alone to her house, and she wanted to make lunch for me. She could speak no English, and I could speak no Greek, but it was a time I will not forget. We were happy to be in each other’s presence although we could not communicate verbally with one another.
One morning, I went out for a run and came back to the house in Astros. When I got back, my other aunt grabbed some water for me, and I sat by my Thea Soula. Again, she rubbed my back and touched my Adam’s apple. As she did this, she talked to my brother Alec, who can speak Greek much better, and told him a story.
When my dad was younger, he and his brother George (who I am named after), were home from the Greek civil war. I am foggy on this, but as Thea Soula told a story, my uncle George had his gun go off and had accidentally shot himself in the stomach in front of his family. Thea Soula was vividly sharing about that day and shared that he lied there on the floor and she tried to put his “guts” back into his stomach to save him. She did not know what to do, and they lost my uncle that day. A tragic event that stuck with her that happened in somewhere around the 1940’s or 50’s.
She said that when I came back, and not seeing her since I was maybe five years old, she looked at me, and I shared the same Adam’s apple that her brother had. As she told the story to my brother, and he translated from Greek, he started to tear up as she said, “When I saw George come here today, I saw my brother for the first time in years. My brother is home! My brother is home!” It was something that I will never forget and explained the connection that we had that felt so powerful. I cry even writing this right now.
As I returned to Greece this past week for a conference, I made the drive to see my relatives again. It was amazing to see them, but unfortunately, my Thea Soula was not in the same home as she had a stroke this past September, and is staying with family in Korinthos, about an hour from Athens. I made sure to see her again.
When I arrived at where she is staying, my cousin warned me before I saw her that she was struggling with dementia and at 96 years old, could not remember many people in her life. Although I have only seen her four times in my life, and only once before as an adult, I was not worried.
I walked into the room, sat beside her, and she looked at me, rubbed my Adam’s apple, and she knew who I was, and started to cry. Her brother was home.
Again, an instant connection. But this time when I came to see her, it is now as a father myself. It is also the first time she has seen me since my father, her brother, had died. As we sat together, I showed her pictures and videos of my daughter Kallea. As I scrolled through the photos of my daughter, she saw the same thing I did. My father.
I don’t know what any of this means but I do know it means something.
There are two phrases of English that I have ever heard Thea Soula say. The first one was “thank you,” but this time she shared one other phrase as I left. “I love you.”
Se agapó Thea.
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