The Portugal Years – This and That

Construction Workers

One thing I learned early on in my time in Portugal was to ignore the comments and catcalls of the construction workers. Salazar’s government followed by a brief tenure of the Communist Party apparently set the construction business on fire. A lot of flats were under construction along a street that I had to traverse on a regular basis. I never learned exactly what they were shouting at me, but I figured I could stay out of trouble if I just refused to make eye contact and looked at the paving stones.

Over time, the blossoming of my pregnant figure became obvious to everyone, including the workers. As soon as they realized that I was pregnant, the comments and catcalls stopped. This respect continued postpartum.

Construction workers in Portugal
Construction workers in Portugal

The Bus

Once Harry could not borrow a car and drive me to my prenatal appointment with Dra. Purificacão; it was for the ultrasound. That day, I had to take public transportation to the hospital where the doctor’s office was to be found and Harry met me there. It was a two-bus project. The second bus I boarded was packed, and the only seat was by a window in the back. The man sitting there stood up to give me the window seat.

Most of the passengers were on their way back to work after their lunch break. The gentleman next to me had eaten something redolent with garlic, and  washed it down with wine. Neither of those fragrances would have bothered me under normal circumstances;  in that warm bus that was wobbling and squished in a small amount of space against the window it caused a revival of nausea. Happily, the nice man exited before it got to critical mass.


Basketball and Water

Naturally the summer that I was in full bloom turned out to be the hottest summer I ever experienced in Portugal. No, it was not my perception. The temperatures in Portugal in summer were typically comfortable and seldom exceeded 80-85 degrees  F.

The worst heatwave lasted most of the week of the Popular Saints holidays. The temperature climbed up to 104 degrees F. It was a time to have the windows open all over the house to try to find a cool breeze. With the neighbors celebrating the saints with grilled sardines and fire crackers an open window meant being cooler, but awake.

To make it even more interesting, a team of American basketball players had arrived to take part in a sports evangelism outreach. Two of them were installed in our spare bedroom. Not to put too fine of a point on it, that meant that things I might have done at night to ameliorate the heat were not possible.

The utilities in Portugal were still working on consistency of service at that time. (Before we got married, Harry survived a two-week stretch of no water.) That really hot week was the week that the water went out. Enter our neighbor, who had a well. She offered her well so we could have water. The two basketball guys got into gear and toted water upstairs where we filled pots and pans and pitchers…and the bathtub.

Portuguese basketball team.

The Portugal Adventure – Part 7 – The Long Year – Baby

Christmas was over. The decorations, as always, had come down on January first. My sister’s baby was overdue. She felt clumsy, and desolate. For over nine months, she had nurtured this beloved little life in her own body. But she had agreed to give this child up for adoption to a family. She was told the family could give her baby a good life. Her heart felt first ripped in two and then shredded. She wanted the baby. Someone who would be hers. I don’t know how she got through those days.  Some days we  waited with her at the edge of her pool of despair as she waited to birth a baby that she would never cuddle. Something just did not feel right.

Two weeks past her “due date” in the middle of the night of Tuesday January 16 into Wednesday January 17, my sister got my mom and dad up to take her to the hospital. Those were the days that I could go back to sleep easily, and being superfluous in this part of the adventure, I went back to bed. Wednesday was a school day.

I was up and dressed for school when my parents returned from the hospital. They told me the baby was a boy who weighed about nine pounds. My sister would be coming home in a couple of days. Alone. When she did come home, there was no way to comfort her. She had handed her son over to the couple who wanted to adopt him. She was dejection on an island of abandoned hope.

But unknown to me, she did have one hope. The baby’s father is a kid magnet. He loved my sister and he loved kids; she knew he would fight for his baby. Pennsylvania adoption law requires a signature from both parents before the adoption can be finalized. The baby, who was born on his father’s birthday had an advocate.  A week after my sister walked away from her baby, she was in the lawyer’s office where she picked up her son up to bring him home. baby

On the way home, my brand new nephew  paid a visit to his great grandmother. She held him, loved on him, blessed him and prayed over him. Then, my sister brought him home. And he was beautiful.