A Fond Remembrance
Carlos Freire: A Fond Remembrance
Sometimes we remember the departed for no particular reason. Carlos Freire is not one of those people. He was — and is — my hero; my role model; my Frank Sinatra, just without the singing, but not without plenty of good music. Today, I invite you all to share in the memory of this wonderful man.
There are times when I am visited by the dead. I know that to some of you, this might sound odd, or even disturbing. For, me it’s perfectly natural, but when it’s in my sleep, I’m never sure if it’s not all a dream. It is in fact, a dream of course, but no less real. Last night, he visited me again — or at least, I dreamt of him. I miss him, for he was a great man.
So why is ‘Senor Freire’ so important to me? He believed in me when so few did. For that, and many other reasons, he will be remembered as long as I am alive — and hopefully even after I’m gone. The world is truly a lesser place without him in it; mine certainly is.
To me, he embodied, and lived in, a different world. Carlos Freire represented an elegant world that I have always sought. He was debonair, and he could wear a smart suit as well as Mister ‘Blue Eyes’ himself. He would travel to far-off places such as the ‘Big Apple’ on business trips, and return with stories and the latest fashionable goods not yet available to the South African market.
One of these things he brought back home were records. He would always smuggle in a few albums into his suitcase. I am so glad he did because it started me on a lifelong obsession with music. When he passed on, I was offered many of his records that we both so dearly loved. Decades later, I still have them, and most I have digitally captured, at the reach of a mouse click. I think he would be pleased that I still enjoy them so much. They are priceless to me even though the music may no longer be fashionable.
Why was this man such a great influence in my life? Why do I still think of, and remember him? He believed in me. When those closest to me did not, he did and in a (not so) small way, he stood up for me too. He was my late father’s best friend. Whenever he saw my own father ‘coming down’ on me, he would quietly tell him it was enough after a while. Naturally, there is more to this, but it is private knowledge that is not for public consumption. It suffices to say this was not an isolated event.
It was only many years later that I fully came to appreciate that he stood up for me even at risk of his own friendship with my father. He didn’t just keep the peace because he believed in me, and he is my hero. Until today, not many people knew this.
As the years wore on, a dashing man in a suit grew older, and his diabetes finally got the upper hand. My own father had already succumbed to cancer of just about every part of the upper body. Unfortunately, now it was his turn.
I would visit him at the hospital whenever he was there because of his health. Toward the end of his life, it was fairly often. Thinking back, I’m not really sure why I did visit him in hospital that often. In retrospect, it was an odd thing for me to do. I would sit with him, we would chat quietly, and I would make him laugh. He never mocked me, and his face always lit up with a smile when I arrived.
My visits were timed to ensure I got his undivided attention. I would arrive after lunch, and sit with him for hours, long after visiting hours. The nurses never asked me to leave. They just went about their business and smiled at me. When his family arrived, I would excuse myself and go home.
Mister Freire had a magnetic personality. He was always surrounded by friends. People just enjoyed being in his company. While some of those around him, and even members of his family might have looked down on others, he never did — unless the person was an idiot. I’m sure that I am not the only one who feels his absence.
One day, at one of the hospitals he was at, his wife pulled me aside to tell me that he missed my father terribly, and my visits somehow cheered him up. It was an odd moment in many ways, and it triggered a set of realisations that I only came to grasp fully many years later.
I remember that one sunny day, a nurse arrived to take his blood pressure, and I asked her to take mine. She told me it was very low — which of course, I already knew — and I told her I had just walked up several flights of stairs too. We all laughed, and I said I had no blood pressure to speak of really.
As his illness progressed, he had a foot amputated. It hit him pretty hard, but he was determined and soon enough, he was back on his one foot. I still recall him enthusiastically showing me how well he got around. He was determined to bounce back, even if it was only on one foot. They took his other leg from the knee down, and he just never did bounce back from that final blow.
I recall my very first visit to a psychic (and this is an entire story on its own), where he was mentioned. I was informed about someone in hospital who did not have long, mere days. She told me to go visit — before it was too late. I did delay my next visit by two days, and I arrived hours after he had died, but thankfully, I had seen him a few days previously.
I would love to sit with him again so he could teach me how to be a great man — just as he was. Sit by quietly and listen to him, not as a silly twenty-something year-old, but as a grown man. I imagine he could have taught me a great many things, and shared many invaluable life experiences.
During a social gathering at his home, there was a poignant moment that was probably missed by rest. As always, it was just ‘the men’ sitting around the little white marble kitchen table. I remember hearing something intensely profound from his lips, and it is a fitting tribute to end this fond remembrance.
The conversation wove on into the night, and inevitably, men will be men, acting like idiots in company, and somehow the topic of infidelity came up. I recall all the bravado and prattle. Someone mentioned that if you were going to ‘do it’, you should wear a ‘glove’ to protect your wife. Carlos Freire simply spoke quietly, frowning, with a familiar arched eyebrow, “You shouldn’t be doing something like that to your wife.”
My memories might fail me in accuracy, but he was a gentleman, the likes of which we desperately need in our modern world. He believed in me, and I miss him.