The conversation I never had: a belated Valentine’s Day tale

15 02 2011

In the early 1990’s, I was just starting in my first real job at Unisys in São Paulo, Brazil. One of my first assignments was a visit to the data processing centre of a government agency, an impressive facility in the outskirts of São Paulo:


PRODESP Processing Data Centre in Taboão da Serra, São Paulo, Brazil (Source: Google Maps)

The person giving the tour was proudly describing the place as state-of-art, from the façade made of concrete-based frames that ensured efficient protection from sunlight, to the internal sound-absorbing panels that allowed you to have a private conversation standing a few meters away from the next person. Many years later, I learned that the two architects responsible for that project were Pedro Paulo Mello Saraiva and my future father-in-law, Setsuo Kamada. It was quite a surprise to me back then, but a bigger one was still about to come.

I married Setsuo’s daughter in 1999. As it’s common among new comers to Canada, our wedding ceremony was at the Toronto City Hall. It was a simple but unforgettable event in our lives, and my in-laws came from Brazil to attend it, along with a close circle of friends.

Sadly, in 2005, he passed away, and I still sorely miss his calm demeanour, his wisdom and his never-ending pursuit of knowledge. An accomplished architect, he was a bit of a geek at heart: I recall him trying out solar panels much before they were fashionable, and was an early adopter of webcams, digital photography, and one of the first people I saw to connect his cable TV to a computer. I used to have these long conversations with him about everything from biology to technology to world cultures to language oddities.

Roughly two years after his death, my wife and I were spending a few days in São Paulo, when she accidentally found this postcard, sent by him to my mother-in-law in 1974, while on a long work trip to North America:


The message, in Portuguese, reads:

Toronto, May 27, 1974

Dear Y.

The United States, not so much, but Canada, I would like you to get to know. One day, we will come together. Be sure about it.


It took him 25 years to fulfill that promise. In 1999, he finally came back to Toronto for the first time since writing that card, to attend the wedding ceremony of his only daughter with lucky me. In the same place depicted in the postcard, the Toronto City Hall.

It was mind boggling. That is the conversation I never had with him that I’ll regret forever. That postcard for me will always be the definitive Valentine’s day card.