Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lessons from a Rose - Rosie Elzingre Pintado

In the hopes of reaching the moon men fail to see the flowers that blossom at their feet - Albert Schweitzer (via @iconic88)

Rosie Elzingre Pintado is my grandmother. To say she had an amazing life is the boldest of understatements. She was born in the Philippines in 1910, the daughter of Swiss and Spanish parents. She was married at the age of 19 and had five children with her husband, Felix Pintado I. 

In 1945, she spent months with her family fleeing the rampaging Japanese invasion of Manila, losing her husband and three of her children during the conflict. Her son, Jose Juan, just over a year old, died in her arms during a particularly savage bombing raid. 

She survived the war along with her two children, son Felix II (my Dad) and daughter, Teresita. She migrated to Sydney, Australia to rebuild her life in 1972 with her children and grand-children. On this day in 1993, she passed away peacefully. She is survived by her two children, thirteen grand-children, almost 30 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild. 

On the last day of her life, I was by her hospital bed as she lay there in a coma struggling to breathe. My Dad, Mum and I watched her and talked about her life, her fighting spirit and her good humour despite all the challenges that befell her. During a break in our conversation, I witnessed her take her final breath - a moment that profoundly affects me to this day.

On the anniversary of her passing, I pondered on the 3 things that I learnt from my beloved grandmother and thought I'd share. 

1. Family as a Life priority - with the passing of her own children, Rosie realised that having family support is vital for survival. As the matriarch of the family during the rebuilding process, she always prioritised family celebrations and every occasion to get the family together. There were the usual trials and tribulations that every family must endure but her perseverance to keep the family united was relentless.

2. Technology as an Enabler to Adversity - Rosie loved watching movies and dramas on TV and even in her mid 70's, she mastered the TV remote control. As her hearing began to falter, she adopted a hearing aid to ensure she could still listen to her favorite films and shows. When she lost her eyesight eventually, she registered with the Royal Blind Society (now Vision Australia) to send her audio books on cassette so she could still enjoy her favorite literature. She taught me that if technology is available, embrace it to live, learn and enjoy.

3. Celebrate Life through Expression - Rosie was a master cake-maker and seamstress. She baked the most magnificent cakes ever and sewed clothes for almost every member of the family. She adored birthdays and anniversaries because she loved to celebrate with family and friends. She taught me how to dance for both fun and expression. She would hit the dance floor with her favorite Charleston jig or the more traditional Spanish Flamenco, regardless of who was watching her. She used self-expression to reveal her talent and to celebrate the joys of life.

I am so thankful for the gift of my grandmother, Rosie. 

If you're reading this and haven't thought to do so yet, say 'hi' to your grandmother for me. If she's no longer with us, take a moment to remember her for what she taught you.

Comments always welcome.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Day Slide Night Died

We had many family traditions when I was growing up. One of the those was "Slide Night". This was the night when Dad would take out his slide projector, the slide carousels that housed a hundred or more  slides and set up the projection screen. 

The eight children and Mum would assemble in the lounge room and would then be taken through a viewing of what seemed like an eternity of photo slides, accompanied by full narration (being an accountant by trade, Dad loves the details) from family events like the 1965 Disneyland trip, the drive through Canada in 1969 and family visits to our native Spain in 1970. 

Being one of the youngest in the tribe, I was attentive during the Disneyland trip slides with fabulous stories of the Pirates of the Caribbean and It's a Small World After All experiences. The whole presentation process got tiring by slide 125 as we started on the Canadian leg and I was fast asleep by the Spanish trip.

A few months ago, my Dad who's now approaching 80 years of age, asked me whether I wanted to see his latest photos from a family event. My mind immediately went back to Slide Nights and a fear enveloped me of having to go through the set-up process again, let alone having to sit through multiple monotonous images. Dad then said, "Wait here, we'll watch it on the Plasma TV". 

STOP THE PRESS - this I had to see.

Dad walked into the TV room, plugged his digital camera into the plasma and off we went - that's him on the right in this photo - as I had to capture the moment. We skipped through the boring shots and went into detail on the most relevant ones. It was a dream viewing compared to Slide Night circa 1970.

Slide projectors and slides have long been replaced by digital alternatives over the years. For me, the moment was significant because it wasn't about the technology. This was about HOW the technology was applied by someone who embraced the technology - despite his age - to deliver the best result for what he wanted to achieve. 

That moment for me was ... the day the Slide Night died forever.