Saudade (1899),
by Almeida Júnior.

Over on Facebook I learned something new last night.

You see, lately I’ve had this nearly indescribable feeling that “something is missing”. At first I thought it was just a touch of post-holiday depression. But it’s more than that, much more.

Then on Facebook, I saw a post from our friend Mongo, regarding an “Instagram” from the daughter of another friend of ours. That other friend was our own beloved Lex. His daughter, the Kat, had posted a picture of her with her Dad when she was very young. She also explained the Portuguese concept (for it is more than just a word) of saudade. As the first anniversary of Lex’s passing approaches, I can only imagine what his family must be feeling. Especially how his youngest child is dealing with it.

From Wikipedia:

Saudade is a Portuguese word that has no direct translation in English. It describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing will never return. A stronger form of saudade may be felt towards people and things whose whereabouts are unknown, such as a lost lover, or a family member who has gone missing.

Saudade was once described as “the love that remains” after someone is gone. Saudade is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, well-being, which now triggers the senses and makes one live again. It can be described as an emptiness, like someone (e.g., one’s children, parents, sibling, grandparents, friends, pets) or something (e.g., places, things one used to do in childhood, or other activities performed in the past) should be there in a particular moment is missing, and the individual feels this absence. In Portuguese, ‘tenho saudades tuas‘, translates as ‘I have saudade of you’ meaning ‘I miss you’, but carries a much stronger tone. In fact, one can have ‘saudade‘ of someone whom one is with, but have some feeling of loss towards the past or the future.

In Brazil, the day of saudade is officially celebrated on January 30.

Saudade is exactly what I’ve been feeling lately.

For me it’s getting close to the anniversary of my Father’s passing, three years ago. It does not nearly feel like it’s been three years. Every time we go to visit my Mom, it feels like Dad has just stepped out for a moment. Saudade.

We didn’t go to my Mom’s for Christmas this year. Instead we went up for New Year’s. Of course, the Christmas decorations were still up. And naturally she told us all about the Christmas she had, with my brother the Old Vermonter and his family and my other younger brother the Musician, up from Boston. It was something I wish I’d been there for. Saudade.

Then at New Years’ I had a lot of fun with my Mom. She’s in her 80’s yet still acts like she did in her 30’s. But still, she’s in her 80’s. I am terrified at the prospect of my Mother not being around someday. Saudade.

At least it’s how I understand the concept of saudade.

Where I live there are many Portuguese, primarily from the Azores (Açores, in Portuguese), I can’t wait to talk to my Portuguese friends about saudade.

It’s something I’ve felt and understood for a long time. Now I’m glad to know there’s actually a word for it. A word with many subtle shadings and nuance. Saudade.

I also have a new day to “celebrate”. On the 30th of January, I’ll remember those absent from my life.

My Dad. And Lex.


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Filed under Family, Lex, Perspective

15 responses to “Saudade

  1. I’m glad the Kat’s post helped put some perspective and definition to what you’ve been feeling, Sarge. To be honest, sharing the photo felt a bit intrusive. It was such an intimate moment, most likely with Lex at Christmas, and I wondered if I had the right to share it. The Kat allayed all that later when she ‘Favorited’ the tweet.
    Saudade is something we all feel at times. My brother and I talk about what it would be like to have our dad here still, and what kind of conversations we might have with him. Dad left us at the end of my junior year in high school, which means my brother and sister were in junior high and experienced even less the full measure of his tutelage and love.
    For me these days, Saudade is “they’re on a long trip, and it’ll be a while before I see them again.” Father, Uncle, Grandmothers, Great Aunts and Uncles. Friends. Saudade.

    • Old AF Sarge

      I too was going to use that picture, for this post. As I was writing I realized that I really couldn’t use that photo. It was just too personal. I know what you were feeling. Of course, I also found that painting above, which I think works very well.

      I love the long trip analogy. That’s really what it is. Later we all get to go on the same trip and, in essence, go home. Saudade.

      If fits in so many ways. Thanks Mongo.

  2. SoCal Pir8

    As I’ve posted several times both here and FB, I lost my Father last July. Think of him and I think of Lex. I can’t think of one without the other. Saudade.

  3. “I’m going to call my Dad.” Would say that to my wife frequently when he was alive. He’s been gone almost 5 years now and I’ll read something or see something to share and I actually think for a brief instant–I’m going to call my Dad.
    Don’t think it will ever go away, but I’ve tried to think of it not in a sad way but in a glad way that we could talk and share things, particularly airplanes and flying stuff. Good memories shouldn’t bring pain but joy in what created the memories in the first place.

  4. Buck

    I, too, learned something today and now have a term to apply to the feelings I’ve had for nearly 15 years. A small comfort, perhaps, but comfort nonetheless.

    Thanks, Sarge.

  5. Isaac Baker

    I had never heard or seen the word before. Saudade. No one had ever articulated the concept to me which it represents. Nonetheless I know Saudade very well. Thank you, very sincerely. Life is learning.

  6. Old AF Sarge

    Thanks go to the Kat. Lex’s youngest.

  7. Like others here – this word perfectly describes my own feelings – especially right now.
    Tomorrow marks 18 years since my own beloved dad passed away. He was 63, I was 32. And there hasn’t been a day or week since then that I haven’t thought about him and missed him. Sometimes the breath is sucked right out of me, from the pain of the loss.
    And then I think of Lex’s trio, particularly his daughters. My dad was a man among men, as was Lex. From a daughter’s perspective I know only too well how hard it is to recover from that kind of loss – and they are so much younger than I was.
    Learning how to live with a loss of a man like Lex – like my dad – is harsh.

  8. I never met Lex face-to-face, only sharing Email with him and faithfully reading his blog.

    But I feel his loss more than that of many with whom I have worked closely over the years and think of him every day.
    Saudade is an excellent diagnosis.

  9. Like Edward, I never knew Lex in person. I had at the time, only been a lurker when I sent him an email about something or other I came across dealing with new Aviation tech. I never expected to get a reply back. But a reply he did, and that started me on the road from Lurker to regular commenter.

    When Christmas came around It hit me that this was the first Christmas without him and my thoughts turned (as they did for us all) towards his family. I was glad to be able to help contribute to the gift we all gave them.

    I had not thought about it either until now, on reading this entry. But things have just seemed off. And my thoughts had been turning more and more towards Lex as January turns towards February, soon to be followed by March.
    The day is midweek. I think I am going to be “out” that day from work, plenty of personal time on the books, Maybe Bike down to the coast and have a Guiness.
    Or two, or three.

  10. I did not know that. It is a word that I get now that I know what it is, it makes sense. It’ll be two years since my Dad passed in just about two weeks. It’s the same date as my BASD, though off by a few years.

    I still enjoy those things because they bring the memories of when we did them and the enjoyment we shared. Those things that bring him rushing back as if we were both younger and doing them still. I miss him, I still talk with him, but I still remember the things that we did together and the joy comes flooding back again. Those times still live in me, both of us having fun, and so he yet lives in me. Let alone those that knew him and see the echo of him in me, my speech, my mannerisms, my sense of humor. And I see the faint echo of him in my daughter, see the mannerisms that I passed along from my father to my daughter.

    I’m glad that she has that of her father, that she was old enough to know him and carry him yet with her. That she, at a very young age actually, has the knowledge of something like saudade to carry her through her life.

    Posts like this show he lives on in us through this endeavor.


  11. Isaac Baker

    I’ve read what I could find about “Saudade” in the past few days, this I found on Wikionary: Saudade is a difficult word to translate precisely. It is said to be the only exact equivalent of the Welsh hiraeth and the Cornish hireth. – We are of partial Welsh descent though none of us I know of has the language at all. just an interesting point of information.

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