Sharing food is a way of sharing love for many people.
This is particularly so for older folks in my grandparents’ generation.
I’d like to tell you a little bit about the woman who has taught me so much about love in Argentina.
Her name is Trini, and she is Juan’s grandmother, who is beautiful both inside and out.
The reason why I’m writing about her is because yesterday we visited her at the rehabilitation center, and it made me realize how much life has changed for us and for her in the past one year. How she became immobilized and unable to walk on her own after hitting her head during a fall on February 1 this year, and how at the age of 83 years old, it is almost impossible for her to recuperate and recover from an incident of such a grave nature. Trini lost a large part of her ability to speak and understand, and many times, we tend to nod our heads to what she says although we don’t understand most of it. This is one of the saddest things because she has always been such a communicative person.
The last time we celebrated New Year’s with her, I remember thinking how fortunate it was to have her in our presence. I miss that very much.
Trini is among the few that I love the most in Argentina.
This is not only because she is Juan’s grandmother, but because of the fact that she has always showered me with so much love and affection, since the first day that I met her in April 2008. Despite my inability to speak Spanish and our limited communication through hand gestures and facial expressions, we somehow managed to connect in a way I cannot even begin to explain.
When I returned to Singapore and Juan and I continued our long distance relationship, Trini would send me a postcard once every few months (maybe even once a month), and Juan would translate what the postcard said. The postcards were always short, with her lengthy, cursive writing filling up the entire space, and before long, she would end the card with “Besos, Te quiero mucho” – which means “Kisses, I love you a lot”. Trini even started attending English classes at a languange school at the age of 80 so she would be able to communicate with me. The amount of determination and effort she had for life is astounding.
When I eventually moved to Buenos Aires in April 2010, I had to make friends from scratch. It wasn’t easy building up my social circle from nothing, and during this time, I spent many an afternoon having tea with Trini in her small but cosy apartment, chatting and making jokes about life – thankfully I was finally able to speak much better in Spanish, and we could at last leave out gestures (although hand gestures are something very characteristic of Argentines).
When Valerie & Jasmine visited in September 2011, Trini welcomed them with so much food, we thought we would burst. It was her way of showing love, of course.
She would tell me stories about the past, about the way people lived, her advice, her little quotes of wisdom, her funnily honest comments, and always insisted that we eat her love-cooked food. She reminds me of my own grandmother, who feeds me with an abundant amount of food each time I visit her because that’s their way of showing love, in the little things, despite being unable to understand the world of technology and fast-paced lifestyle my generation thrives on. Even now that Trini is living in the rehabilitation center, she never fails to offer us her share of tea or dinner, something which touches me no end.
It is really quite amazing to be able to share the company of someone who has been through the Great Depression, World War Two, the birth of the Internet, the widespread epidemic of addiction to computers, as well as the rise and fall or Argentina’s economy (Trini was born in 1929). For someone who has lived substantially in two different centuries (almost the majority in one and at least a decade in another), she must have to right to speak about the flaws and benefits of the many generations she has been a part of and contributed to. I think her mind must be like a mega hard disk drive with coves of knowledge, secrets, observations, experiences that a person of my age and generation will not be able to comprehend. It is very unfortunate and sad that the fall she had has made her lose the ability to communicate like she did before.
One of the first phrases Trini quoted me in my visit to Buenos Aires in 2008 was –
“La medida del amor, es amar sin medida”.
This translates into –
“The measure of love, is to love without measure..”
I suppose if after an entire life of seeing war, depression, transitions and death, if someone like Trini tells you to keep on loving the world, it is worth doing so.