Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Undefeated

Most men in his shoes would be dead. After all he is 90 years old. He has been hit by a car twice and suffered a heart attack ... since turning 85.

There is only one Rebello.


He immigrated from Portugal to my hometown of Danbury, Conn., when he was a young man. He has worked as a tailor since then. Exactly how many years? I’m not sure but his sewing machine looks like an antique. He owns a small shop on Main Street where the local police often stop by and look after him. The women love him. When he was young, he had a new woman next to him in the new car he bought each year. At least this is what his best friend, Louie Marchese, told me one time when we were waiting to go to lunch with Rebello one day.


Lunchtime is my time with Rebello. Bring up a story about women and Rebello will always have a new personal anecdote that he will elaborate upon with a shit-eating grin, “Brett, let me tell you, one time I...” He also is a good listener and he is as sharp as the needle he uses every day. Over the years I have gone to lunch many times with Rebello, my father, and some of Rebello’s friends. It has become a tradition at 12 noon, but not a minute after for he won’t wait.

I went to lunch with Rebello a few days ago, on Christmas Eve. My dad, brother, Rebello’s nephew, and a friend also came along. It was a great lunch and everyone was in good spirits since these get-togethers are less frequent because I doing a lot of traveling. I brought my new camera, the Nikon D300, that my parents had given to me for Christmas. I took some shots at the lunch table and then put it away. Then we drove back to Rebello’s shop. As we were walking out the door, I asked my dad if I should take some photos of Rebello in his shop. “Take the photos,” said my dad. “You never know what is going to happen in life.” So I did.


My brother then drove me home and did some last-minute Christmas shopping. About 45 minutes after we had left Rebello’s, the phone rang. It was my brother. “You’re not going to believe what happened...” he said. “Rebello just got hit by a car. An ambulance took him to the emergency room.” What? I was just eating with Rebello, and taking photos of him ... what happened? Rebello had stepped outside of his shop and had been run over trying to cross the street corner just a few feet away. He was probably going to the corner convenience store to buy a lottery ticket. (He likes the scratch-off tickets.) I’m still not sure exactly why he left his shop. Anyhow, that night I talked to my dad who had met Rebello at the emergency room. He called me and said that Rebello had broken a few ribs but had no internal bleeding. Coincidentally, Louie, who is 92, has been extremely ill in the hospital which is why he didn’t join us for lunch. Then Rebello got hit and also spent his Christmas in the hospital.

Today, Rebello returned to work and I had lunch with him. He was telling jokes and laughing at his own misfortune (or good fortune, depending how you look at it). I told him it was a good thing he left the Jesus picture on the wall. I had given Rebello a Fernando Botero painting for Christmas and my dad removed the Jesus picture Rebello had on his wall to make room for the painting. Rebello insisted that the Jesus picture stay on his wall. So maybe God is watching...

So how does he do it? I think it’s Rebello’s enthusiasm for life and will to work. After having a heart attack, his doctor recommended he take at least a month off. “If I don’t work, I don’t eat,” Rebello replied. He returned to work the next day. This happened again when he was run over for the first time. And yet again this week. I’m glad he did. Lunchtime just wouldn’t be the same.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

hey thats not his nephew thats his grandson :-)

Rafael

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