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Lessons from Vóvó: Friendship & Forgiveness

At 87, she experienced a life that many of us dream of. From Brasil to Brooklyn, she loved, cried, laughed, fought, worked, nurtured, sacrificed, danced, and walked a mile in her shoes, just to provide those around her with a wealth of knowledge and wisdom. Many people called her “mommy”even those that she did not raise. I called her grandma, or in Portuguese, “Vóvó” – Mahogs

This is the third and final installment of “Lessons from Vó.” On Wednesday, January 27, Mrs. Ivone Dos Santos Seetram passed away. May her words live with us forever and we never forget her amazing spirit.

You have been a good friend to many people over the years. But I know that with friendship, there will be disagreements or conflict. What is your advice on how to deal with that?

Vó: I’m very careful when I open my mouth. If I’m wrong, help me to accept it. But I never can say I wish something bad on someone because they say something bad about me. When you wish somebody bad, it seems like the one defense that you have. My defense is, if I deserve [what was said about me], I ask God to help me to deal but eventually things come back in my favor. And I feel free. I never put myself on top. I just leave it in God’s hands.

Okay, but what about when you clearly disagree on something?

Vó: I have my opinion, you have yours. No one is wrong. I never wore red dresses because I thought I was too dark. But I saw other women do it, it’s just a matter of opinion.

Even in some of the most dramatic situations, you always seem to find the good in other people, despite their faults. That’s a beautiful quality.

Vó: My husband always said, I can’t talk about anyone to you because you always make excuses [for people].’ That’s just me.

No one wants to be bad because they want to be bad. We all come into this world with our own cross to carry. Why would someone be bad when they can be good? I always say something to defend. When it comes to family, it does nothing to complain and make things worse.

I think that’s why people always want to be around you.

Vó: Something about me, people liked me to be their friend. Because I treat everyone the way they are, they don’t have to act or do the things that I do. If they do something I don’t like, I ask God to help them. But I don’t pass judgment.

I can never sit down to say something bad about someone because someone else said they are one thing or another. I never was the type of person to talk to someone about someone else’s behavior. Some of them didn’t always get along with one another and eventually I would bring them all together.

That’s real.

Vó: My (old) boss used to say, ‘None of us knows everything and the best way to learn different opinions is to talk.’ But I never talked. That was my biggest problem. I just tried to accept even if I didn’t agree. I was often scared to say something wrong. When I was in school I would know the answer but didn’t say anything.

Do you regret that?

Vó: I do regret it because if I talked more maybe I would have learned more. For example, say we go to a party, someone says something and makes everyone laugh. I wanted to say something but before I could, I would sweat. This all changed when I had kids but I always lacked confidence [when I was younger]. Now I talk, I get fresh now. I learned a lot in life.

My grandmother was never without a few words of wisdom or a new story to share. Check out a few of my past conversations with her in previous installments of “Lessons from Vó: Gender Roles & The Rules of Engagement and Love & Money. May she rest in peace.

Last 5 posts by Sherry J. Bitting