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Personal Essay | Saudade

By Milda Sokolovaitė

My granma is a fan of YouTube. The other day she called me up to ask what ‘fatal error’ means, because that was the message she was seeing on her computer screen. I giggled on the phone the way she probably giggles every time when we are picking mushrooms together and I ask her “Is this one poisonous?”

As I drive off leaving my granma’s house, with all its childhood memories behind, a feeling that can only be expressed by the Portuguese word ‘saudade’ washes over me. Saudade – a certain feeling of longing for that which you might never have had in the first place. An emotional state of a sort that has no accurate expression, really.

I have always felt somewhat saddened when I hear people say “I really don’t want to live longer than the age of 70. That’d be quite enough for me.” What saddens me is the fact that the perception of old age in our society has been so distorted that we are losing any respect, let alone appreciation for it. To such, I always answer: “Let us talk when you’re 70.”

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I never counted the age of my granma. Somebody asked me the other day how old she was and I was totally thrown off by the question. I was clueless about it. For me she is just the age of a granma – never too old, but certainly not young anymore. It’s only when we were having tea this afternoon that it occurred to me that she might actually be aging. We were discussing something we should plant in spring and she came up with the “if I’m still around” condition.  “Of course you will be!” I replied, because I couldn’t imagine it being otherwise. “Time flies,” she said. “Here we were planting the potatoes, and in a blink it was already time to harvest them. Days go by so fast, seasons change so quickly,” she said, in a voice that had a hint of that saudade feeling. “But surely, it’s a good thing. If time flies it can only mean that you’re actually living. Living life to the fullest. It’s only the time of boredom that makes you keep glancing at your watch every minute, making it seem like it lasts for a lifetime,” I said. She didn’t really have anything to say in response to my remark. Saudade has carried her to places unknown to myself. We sat in silence.

Old age, then. There is a certain fear that gets through to my bones when I think about it. We live in the time of a “youth cult,” or at least that’s what it feels like. As if everything we have to do in life should be done until a certain age. As if having crossed that imaginary line, there is no more life to be lived; there’s only painful existence waiting for the end of your days. But is that so, really? As I think about my gran, I only realize how fortunate she is to be leading the life she is leading. To be living a life that many of us could actually envy. She wakes up knowing exactly what she is going to do today, she goes around her little farm (the dog named Cat, her faithful servant, behind her) and performs her daily tasks with the certainty that this is how it is supposed to be. For me, that certainty is the main source of peace. The peace that many of the young and the ambitious ones are lacking.

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I write to my granma. I write her letters. Sometimes I even post those. She reads them with a joy that no one else is able to experience. She treats my words with so much attention and care that I doubt any of my readers ever will. “You should write for a newspaper,” she says and smiles. And that smile for me is more precious that the honor of having any of my writing published.

I putter around the farm and take things in. I look over the endless fields and the trees that have changed their colors so unexpectedly. I feel so small and yet – so great. A part of a bigger whole; a part of the constantly evolving universe. I have no power or control over it and neither do I desire to have such. This feeling of submission liberates great joy within me.

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I wish for my granma to live a hundred years. Let her be well and healthy; let her be grumpy at times for not being treated fairly by the government or society; let her be a little bit bitter if she has to, having survived the terrors of a war, having witnessed so many changes in life. How could I deny her that? She’s seen so much, she’s lived through so much, that I can only be grateful to a higher being for allowing her to preserve the kind heart that, to this day, keeps our family together. The heart which keeps her own little world revolving and makes me want to weep tears of joy when I am with her.

When the ambitions go, when the desires that are tearing me apart calm down a little, when I’ve been through the good times and the tough times in pursuit of my dreams, I only wish I’ll still have the time and the heart-space left to live that feeling of saudade in such tranquility.

Milda is a writer, translator and a theatre maker with a passion for both written and spoken word. She is currently studying to obtain her Master’s degree in Acting at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre. In her spare time, Milda enjoys exploring different forms of expression, from singing to baking croissants. She restlessly looks for new ways to share and encourage the joys of creative communication. You can follow Milda on her blog or Facebook.

 

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