Article

GRAVITATIONAL WAVES

conversations with hank

(front door opening)

Hank: Papa!

Molly: NE NE (PAPA!)!

Me: Hurray!

Pai: (bursting into the living room) It’s a BIG DAY!

Me: I know I have been waiting until you got home.

Hank: What is it?

Pai: Hank we need to pull up the web-browser on the X-box.

Hank: Okay. (reaching for the controller)

Molly: NE NE! (arms stretched to the ceiling)

Pai: Olá filha (hello daughter)! I love you! (picking her up)

Molly: (melting into a hug)

Hank: Alright, what now?

Pai: (commandeering the controller) Wait for it. (searching the web) One sec… Right. Hank, today is a very important day for science and for the universe, for us and for all people (deep breath). A hundred years ago a physicist named Albert Einstein predicted that space and time were dynamic meaning not fixed and that there were gravitational waves. Before it was merely an idea and today they confirmed that gravitational wave indeed exist. Here, lets watch this and then we can talk more.

Me: Amazing.

Pai: You get what this means, right?

Me: Yes. Absolutely… It means two black holes started kissing so intensely they created us.

Pai: That is not what it means.

Hank: (laughing)

Molly: (playing with her Sylvanian Family animals oblivious to Gravitational Waves)

Me: The love of two black holes was so intense that they shook up the universe?

Hank: (laughing)

Pai: It’s more like that Zen analogy with the rock and the pond and we’re apart of the ripples.

Hank: Is this something my grandpa Snitch cares about? It feels like something my grandpa Snitch should know.

Pai: Your Grandpa Bern really cares about this. When he was in college this theory was the hot theory to discover and only now, 50 years later, were we able to develop the technology advanced enough to detect…

Hank: THE BEEP.

Pai: That beep is the signal of detection of gravitational waves.

Me: It’s a good day to be named Hanford. Finally something not nuclear related to stamp our name on.

Hank: THAT’S RIGHT! One of those places that heard the beep is called Hanford. My Grandpa Snitch is named Hanford and me too! I am Hanford Pereira! (calm) Cool.

Me: Mega cool.

Pai: Lets watch this again.

Me: (whispering to Alfredo) Does this mean time travel?

Pai: This means everything.

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The LIGO research centers that heard the BEEP

Article

Our Little Prize Fighter

conversations with hank

 

(Pai and I popping our heads into Hank and Molly’s room at 7am)

Me: (turning on the light) Chicken?

Hank: (quite moaning)

Pai: Still no better?

Molly: (standing up in her crib pointing to Hank) Nene, ne ne (My brother is sick).

Me: (noticing a towel pressed to his nose) Um…

Hank: I had another nose bleed. It’s fine. I handled it, but my stomach hurts. I just got a drink of water because of my nose and it hurts.

Pai: (holding Molly) I’ll get dressed.

Me: Thank you for handling your nose bleed, buddy. Was it bad?

Hank: No, just a little one.

Me: Man, that still sucks.  I know it’s early, but I need to get you dressed. Your papa is going to take you to the clinic this morning. It’s been three days sick and you are not better. You don’t have a fever, but you definitely have a virus so we need to check it out.

Hank: That’s the rule. Three days then doctor. (sigh, removing the towel) Is my nose bleed stopped?

Me: (trying to not recoil at his face of smeared, dried blood) You look like you were in a boxing match, but your nose bleed has stopped. Now, can you please describe to me how you are feeling while we get your cleaned up and dressed. It is important to use very descriptive language when you see a doctor. The better you can describe your symptoms the faster they can help you.

Hank: Okay, well… My head hurts when I stand up and walk around.

Me: Good, what else.

Hank: And my belly feels hot, not when you touch it, but hot.

Me: Like hot on the inside?

Hank: Yes, that is it, my mama. And I feel wobbly. And my eyes hurt.

Me: Hurt how: burning hurt, itchy hurt, headache hurt?

Hank: Itchy hurt.

Me: Alright, anything else?

Hank: (shaking his head) Ow, and my head hurts when I do that.

Me: Oh buddy, I’m sorry. (rubbing his shoulder) Now you know what to say when the doctor asks you your symptoms.

Hank: Whats a symptom?

Me: A symptom is what you just said.  The details of how you are feeling.

Hank: Okay. (pause for socks) I like going to the doctor. (pulling his sweater over his head) They have an important job.

Me: Will you want to be a doctor when you grow up?

Hank: I don’t know yet. All I know today is my belly hurts. (falling into a big hug)

Me: (hugging him right back) Oh my little prize fighter, you’ll be better soon. (rubbing his back)

Article

Dying

conversations with hank

 

Me: (in bed, sick, suffering from a raging headache and exhausted from the previous nights bout of pain-somina)

Hank: Hey, mama.

Me: Howdy, sailor. What’s shaking?

Hank: I am getting ready for bed. What are you doing?

Me: Netflix and chill, my head hurts too much to read right now.

Hank: I’m sorry, can I watch with you for a bit? My head hurts, too. I drank some of your tea and papa gave me a little medicine.

Me: Well, aren’t we a pair of jars.** You can join me, but I am afraid that the novela (soap opera) I am watching is very sad at the moment. Can you handle some sadness?

Hank: Maybe. What is happening?

Me: (pointing to the paused screen) This man is very sick and he is going to die.

Hank: That is very sad. (pause) Mama, does it hurt when you die?

Me: No, not usually, but it can. Your brain is marvelously helpful when it comes to pain so if it does hurt it is only for a moment and then your body goes into shock which takes the pain away so don’t be afraid of pain. More often than not people die dreaming.

Hank: Really?

Me: Yup. Either they’re dreaming naturally or a doctor has given a medicine to help them relax and peacefully dream away. (pause) Are you afraid of dying?

Hank: Um… I don’t know. I think I am afraid of the sadness and if it is scary and things like that.

Me: Nobel fears. Totally justified.

Hank: But then you go to heaven.

Me: That is one name for it. In truth, no one really knows. As it should be the next journey is a mystery. You wouldn’t want to read the book if you knew the ending.

Hank: You say that a lot, but I don’t know what that means all the time.

Me: It’s a metaphor. Let me try another. If you watched a movie would you want to read the book no matter how different and amazing it was?

Hank: (giggling) No. I understand now.

Me: Death must be a mystery so we get the most out of our life. We all die. All of us and at varying times, but that isn’t the sadness for the person who dies, the sadness is for the people who live without them. Our bodies are fragile, Hank, but we are not our bodies. You are not a body, but a soul, uma alma. Your body is merely the house for your soul. Your body is like a snail shell. A beautiful snail shell that is half of your papa and half of me and a mix of all of our ancestors who lived before us. I don’t know what happens when we die, but I do know this and with all my heart: Life isn’t easy, but it is worth it. Life is very short, very precious and love is why we’re here.

Hank: How do you know?

Me: I know it in my bones. I have always known, even when I was little. Religions are just the words, teachings and ideas used by people and cultures to explain life and all religions have two things in common: faith and love.

Hank: What is faith?

Me: Fé, convicção (faith, conviction). It is the knowing, the conviction that something is true beyond proof. Faith and love have the same core: we don’t know why, there is no real proof, it just is. I love you. I don’t need proof or why. I just do. The why is irrelevant? It’s a mystery.

Hank: And you need the mystery to get to the end.

Me: I never thought of it that way, but that is exactly what I am trying to say. Thank you. Loving is risky and a lot can go wrong, but without it the rest of life doesn’t matter. And it isn’t just the love of people it is love of all things. The love of animals and nature and books and art and the sea and snuggling under blankets and hot chocolate and ice cream and Hogwarts and sunsets and hedgehogs…

Hank: (giggling)

Me: …and technology and penguins and vlogs and windmills and caves and Nerdfighteria and broccoli and stardust and fairies and magic and gravel roads and dusty cars and music and fireflies…
Love is your last chance. There is nothing else on earth to keep you here.***

Hank: (leaning into my shoulder) I get it now.

Me: (deep breath) Do you want to watch this novela (soap opera) with me?

Hank: I do. A little sadness is good sometimes. (deep sigh) I will just cry and that’s okay.

Me: That is perfectly okay. (pushing play)

 

** “Mas que belo par de jarras,” (what a beautiful pair of jars) is a Portuguese expression normally delivered sarcastically when encountering odd fellows, stray cats or a couple of grandpas swapping lies on a park bench.

***Modified quote from Louis Aragon which reads: Love is your last chance. There is really nothing else on earth to keep you there.