Lessons from Vovó: Love & Money

At 87, she has experienced a life that many of us dream of. From Brasil to Brooklyn, she has loved, cried, laughed, fought, worked, nurtured, sacrificed, danced, and walked a mile in her shoes, just to be here today with a wealth of knowledge and wisdom, ready to share it with those of us just starting this journey that we call life. Many people call her “mommy” even those that she did not raise.

I call her grandma, or in Portuguese, “Vovó

Here is the first installment of Lessons from Vovó, a series of jewels dropped by one of our treasured elders!

Vovó on: Advice to Happiness
I knew what I wanted for my future before I started dating. So when you start to date you have to fight for what you know you want. But that comes from you, not the guy. When you date from the beginning, let him see you for who you are. When I was young, I knew I wanted to get married and have children.

What makes you get through hard times, you have to understand one another. With my husband, there are some things that he used to do to please me.

Mahogs: Like what?

Vovó: From the day I met him, he never went a holiday or birthday when he didn’t give me something: a card, flowers, little Cinderella shoes, all of these things showed that he had me on his mind. Nothing expensive, just a little something to show that he cared. I felt that he tried to give me the best things possible. Don’t always look for the big thing. It’s the little things that count.

Mahogs: We’re in the middle of a recession, so a lot of people have lost their jobs or are forced to do more with less. You have always managed to have more money than anyone in the family and I think there’s something to learn from that. Can you share any money saving tips?

Vovó: Regardless of what you make, always put something away. If you make $10, put $2 away and forget about it. Don’t go one step higher than what you can afford. Save penny to penny until you go to a million.

Now I live on social security and no matter what happens, I always make sure I have two months rent. Yea, I’ll go to the casino and take $100 whatever, but I won’t touch my social security money. That’s how I was raised. Never spend one penny more than what you have. I’ve been doing it until today.

I have credit cards and buy furniture, whatever and always pay off at the end of the month. I lent money for my children and friends to buy their first homes—all people who made more {money} than me til this day.

I went to Brasil for three months and left three months rent in the bank and extra money for my son in case I needed something. I never put myself in position to ask anyone for money. How is it since I was 14, I had no father and mother, and I never asked anyone for a penny. Sometimes I think it was God, not me.

Even when I moved here (to the US), I sent my sister half of the money for rent in case I ever decided to come back.

Mahogs: Since I was young, my mother always stressed the importance of being independent. Now, I know that she got that directly from you. But sometimes so many of us spend so much time trying to take care of ourselves that we don’t allow others (namely men) to take care of us. Have you experienced that?

Vovó: I always let him {my husband} come to me. Sometimes I was too independent. He would later say, ‘You never call me or ask for anything.’ That’s because that’s the way I was raised. I always tried to do for myself. Sometimes I think I did it wrong.

Mahogs: Why wrong?

Vovó: Because men often need to feel needed. They like to feel needed in everything. Sex, everything. I would always let him come to me, even if I wanted him. All of these things I didn’t realize until he was gone.

Once, his ex-girlfriend from Guyana came in town. He asked if I would mind if the two of them went out together. I told him, I don’t care. I know you’re going to come back to me. You were friends before me. If you do it behind my back, then it’s a problem. He was expecting me to tell him not to go so he would feel like I was jealous. But I was so free to let him go. He thought I just didn’t care.

Mahogs: Did he go?

Vovó: Yea, he took her around! Very few women can accept something like that. Me and the woman had a talk. She turned around and said, “Lionel, you don’t have to worry about him. He’s so in love with you, he’s not thinking about anyone else.”

Mahogs: And you knew that, that’s why you let him go. I love it.

Catch more from me and my grandmother in the next installment of “Lessons from Vovó


Last 5 posts by Sherry J. Bitting