Discover Nikkei

In Company with the Happy Old Age

I went to visit a very dear aunt who lives on the coast of Sao Paulo. I am proud of her, for even in her eighties she drives her car, cooks, and she has been living alone since her husband passed away. Oh, of course, she likes to take walks, karaoke, and she has a lot of friends.

I do not get much along with the elderly and my mother passed away when I was 25, so I miss hearing the teachings of the elders. I went to visit her to kill the longing for my loving aunt and to learn a little about the secret of her longevity.

As soon as I arrived at her house, we prepared her legendary nishime recipe together. You know those recipes that are not written anywhere, but everyone in the family likes to eat it and they would like to know how to prepare? I felt privileged to learn it by doing and to listen to her tips. It is not difficult to cook it and I concluded the secret is really the seasoning - it is called love.

When the recipe was ready, we wrapped the pot in a furoshiki and we went to her sister´s building, who lives on the same street. A fine drizzle was falling.

We rang the doorbell, but no one answered. After 5 minutes waiting in the hall of the floor, my aunt hears loud voices and says: "I think that’s them! They're coming back from the pool."

The elevator arrived and there were lots of people. I did not understand how many people were in there and to my surprise, they all knew each other.

Already in gray-haired age, full of experience, they were going out one by one and I felt like in a movie scene. A lady with a swimming cap and goggles on her head, another lady wrapped in a towel and one with blue eyes and very pink lipstick. Oh, and also a couple holding hands, that my aunt afterwards told me they met on the internet. Wow, how many people! If anyone of them had a duckling float and duck feet, I would not be surprised. It was a lot of fun!

Talking and in full happy age, they came from the club pool and greeted me with a kiss as I heard my aunt saying, smiling, "This is my niece."

We entered the apartment, which was very cool and super ventilated. We unmolded the milk pudding made in the water bath and we prepared gohan. My aunt and her sister argued about what they could use to make salad. They found chard in the refrigerator, cherry tomatoes, and sliced ​​an onion. Also, even though it was enough food for everyone, I saw a bacalhoada [brazilian dish] being thawed on the stove and I took advantage of this practical mother's tip: always have a frozen bacalhoada to serve when unexpected visitors come.

Everyone cheerful in the rainy afternoon.

We all had a nice lunch and I was surrounded by cheerful people. The rain became extremely strong and it remained so throughout the afternoon, and it was impossible to leave the house. I figured I would have to stay the night there and leave the next day. But I was happy to be safe.

Taking advantage of the rain, I learned to play the "gonarabe", which is a simple strategy game for two players. The one who completes a five-piece sequence before the opponent is the winner. I could not learn the strategies very well. As I learned that no one can win from the man who taught us to play, I stopped trying very hard. Due to age, he can not speak clearly and he moves with difficulty, but it is clear that his lucidity and reasoning are fine. Then my aunt explained that he is a friend of her sister, not a relative as I thought he was, for being so well treated. He was adopted as a friend!

The game "gonarabe."

My aunt sitting on the couch said loudly, "Let's play pintinho?" This made us laugh. In fact, it is "pontinho" the name of the game of cards. Whoever lost the round had to pay pennies to the winner, which are stored in a black chawan. My aunt helped the man to discard the possible combinations of cards and to pick up the cards, because of his difficulty in mobility.

The playing cards and the pennies.

We spent the rest of the afternoon playing cards. The lady of the couple yawned frequently and said, "Ahhh, why do we feel so sleepy after the pool?"

Then the rain subsided and we returned to my aunt's house. We ate banana cake as we talk about the decisions we make in life. She told me how much she took care of my jitchan and that—stubbornly—he only agreed to be taken care of by her. Now, my batchan died when I was 2 years old, so I do not remember many things about her.

When the conversation is good, time flies. It's time to go to my city, Sao Paulo.

Well, I went to the coast, but I did not step on the sand and I did not touch the seawater. I stayed in an apartment, admiring the wisdom and lightness of old age. Some secrets of longevity? Solidarity, feeling gratitude, joy in living, and believing in God.


© 2019 Silvia Lumy Akioka

board games Brazil cooking families food friends games go (game) São Paulo
About the Author

Silvia Lumy Akioka is a Brazilian Sansei. She was a dekasegui at age 17, and on another occasion, she was an Exchange Student in Fukuoka Prefecture, when she published the series "The Year of a Brazilian Across the World" (Portuguese only) - it was her first contact with Discover Nikkei. She is an admirer of Japanese culture, and she also likes blogging about other themes. She was in Los Angeles volunteering for Discover Nikkei in April 2012, and she has been an official consultant for the project for 6 years.

Updated February 2019

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