It must have felt like an early Christmas the day the letter arrived from California in October 1962. It had been over forty years since Bibi, my great-grandmother, had heard from her younger brother, Julio. He was very young when he boarded a ship, around 1920, bound for the United States never to return to the island or family he left behind.
This is the letter Bibi wrote to her brother after receiving the letter
(Here is my rough translation)
The dearest brother of my entire heart is you, Jolio Coelho. It is with much joy and sorrow that I attempt these few letters to tell of my well-being, my daughter and grandchildren. I only wish to one day see you, your wife and children well. Brother Julio, today we have such joy that is so admired by many, this love of our brother. There was and is only us – 3 siblings.
We are saddened because of your illness and that you have not been well but it is the hand one has been dealt, Oh, patron Saint of Patience, the will of God, my brother. You are so young, still. But illness is for us sinners. God will bring you health.
Brother, I hope that when you receive this letter, you reply because you have left me with much sadness that you did not describe your illness.
Now, I send your Baptism Certificate. Whatever you need here, I am ready to do what I can with best intentions
Brother Jolio, today I have had so many people in our home wishing us well because of your letter. And everyone is elated with your correspondence. I hope that you write us more often and that you recover.
When you receive this (Baptism) Certificate, tell me that you have received it and I, and our sister Culinha, will be satisfied. We have for so long cried for you, our dear brother, our nieces and sister-in-law, for we have not even seen them in pictures.
Julio, I am so saddened now because I know you did not write us with your own hand. I have to know whether this is because of illness or injury you suffer.
Sister, Culinha, will be writing you, as well. Brother, I received the 5 dollars in the letter to pay the cost of the certificate. I will wait for your response.
I am, as well, a widow. My husband died so young. Rosinha is married and I have 6 grandchildren. Sister, Culinha has 5 children, all men and women now. They were all surprised that Uncle Julio has remembered them.
Brother, accept my embrace with much love for you, my sister-in-law, and my nieces. I wish to know their names. I will write to them now that I have your new address.
Many compliments and appreciation for this person who wrote you this letter, whoever they are.
That is all for now,
Your sister, your best friend until death,
I am Maria Coelho Rodrigues
(PS) Brother, whatever it is you suffer I hope you will let me know what it is.
(Additional message added from Culinha)
Much Saudade our sister Colinha and your nieces and nephews send to you and will write you often.