The Same Side of the Other Side of the World

Photo Credit Cheryl Oreglia

The thing about life that is so obvious, but easy to miss, is how our overt realities rarely match up to our covert realities. Just as I wrote those words a car alarm went off in the neighborhood its staccato horn reverberating through the quiet streets of Campbell. Oh, that’s rich. I sit here in the dark, nestled in my warm bed, computer on my lap, slugging down cup after cup of American coffee, smiling like an idiot. 

When the universe knows you’re on to something she gets alarmed. 

I’m a little warped this morning, classic timezone confusion, my body thinks it’s time for lunch, but the clock says it’s 3:03 am. I’ve been trying to silence my thoughts and go back to sleep for nearly an hour, total fail, when I heard Larry wrestling into his workout clothes (showoff) at like 4:15 am, and then quietly exit the room I shot up in bed as if a spring tomato and grabbed my computer.  

Admittedly I prayed he would remember to brew a pot of coffee and when that familiar aroma came slithering down the hall I was captured. 

Mornings do that to me, they hold me against my will, and I acquiesce to their inexcusable demands, joining forces as we liberate the day. 

My brain is murky. It feels as if my thoughts are cocooned by a thick fog, one that has enveloped my entire body, and every word has to fight to emerge. I’m not kidding, I sat here for five minutes trying to think of the word reverberate?

We call this jetlag because my body might be in California but my internal clock is on Portuguese time. 

Visiting a person, place, or thing that is distant or rare catapults my intuition into high gear. I find myself continually scanning for clues that affirm my version of reality. You know what I mean?

If you don’t understand the language you have to listen with your gut (not literally) so you can intuit the nature of the encounter. It’s essential for survival, evolutionary, as old as the Neanderthals who were tall but perished because they were rather ignorant by today’s standards. This could be all conjecture but I have a feeling the National Institute of Mental Health will be contacting me shortly. 

We landed in Portugal early evening after flying for nearly sixteen hours, exhausted but slightly giddy to be back on solid ground, part of me no longer wonders how distance makes the heart grow fonder. Coming in from all corners of the world Larry’s brother Ken, wife Marta, darling daughters Sophia and Martica convene at the Lisbon airport, as my son Tony meets us upon arrival.

My heart skips a beat when he comes into view. There he is, tall, stately, and ever so handsome. Not the same boy I chased down the street when he got into that taxi five years ago embarking on a new life in Australia and then onto Portugal a few years later. He has grown into a man. I feel as if I missed the metamorphosis because it happened while he was outside the range of my maternal radar, without a doubt the cord has been severed, and I struggle with this new reality. 

The first hug always brings me to tears which I now recognize as tiny waves of grief. I grieve for all those missed years, the intimacy formed through daily encounters, the casual bond between mother and son that time and distance can erode. Yes, I’m being dramatic but in my defense, it’s all true.

This is what I call my covert reality rolling down my cheeks because overtly he is in my arms, solid, present, and ever so familiar. 

Finding the apartment we rented for our stay in Portugal was as if following an Agatha Christie novel, somehow we had the wrong address, missed every important clue, or quite possibly this is the way of things east of the Mississippi. We had to take two cars to get us all home but it’s a foreign country, it’s dark, and our people are now scattered about Parede chained to their luggage, and a rather intense language barrier. Oh, joy. 

We stop near Tony’s apartment to get our barrings and Thalita shows up like a breath of fresh air. I claw my way out of the crowded car so I can walk the rest of the way with the only person who appears to know the location of our apartment. She’s Tony’s significant other, lovely, thoughtful, generous, and clearly competent. She walks me to our new home as if a stray cat in need of refuge. I was a mess, tired, disoriented, and longing for a warm bed. 

Early the next morning, standing on the balcony of our room, I scan the landscape for what’s similar and different from “the other side of the same side of the world,” as my son Dante puts it, the one who arrived in the middle of the night and somehow found us all on his own? 

The view of the Atlantic Ocean is spectacular and vaguely similar to the California coastline. The air is crisp and clear and I wrap my arms around my waist for warmth. I see the appeal of Portugal, its ancient history merges seamlessly with the modern world, preserving not only the charm but renaissance energy. 

What’s different is the coffee. 

Our apartment is large and luxurious, with three bedrooms, three baths, a huge living room, modern kitchen, and dining room. Seeing it in the light of day I’m blown away by the spacious accommodations and how generously they house seven of us. 

Larry and Ken slip out early, walking to a nearby store for supplies, which include coffee, eggs, bacon, fruit, bread, olive oil, milk, juice, fruit, assorted meats, and cheeses. All familiar but slightly different and perhaps that’s why we travel, to challenge that which we’ve come to know. 

It’s Saturday morning, Tony and Thalita show up early to cook us breakfast, and join us around the large and abiding table. I try and take in every detail, I realize this is not humanly possible, but I give it a worthy effort. I watch Tony’s face as if a mother holding her newborn for the first time. I breathe him in as if a person struggling for air and you can only imagine how he’s not sharing this headspace. 

Remember when we said when we turned gray

When the children grow up and move away

We won’t be sad, we’ll be glad

For all the life we’ve had

And we’ll remember when…

Damn that Alan Jackson

The scramble to ready the troops is humorous. Did the owner really leave only six towels on our beds for seven people over a ten-day stay? Thank God Marta was able to reach into the chained cupboard as if Huduini and secure more supplies. This is what rolling with seasoned travelers looks like. 

Photo Credit Marta Oreglia

Lisbon is one of the world’s oldest cities, I feel much the same, with seven cinematic hillsides overlooking the Rio Tejo that cradle Lisbon’s postcard-perfect panorama of cobbled alleyways, ancient ruins, red-tiled roofs, and white-domed cathedrals as if lofty guardians to which I aspire. 

Photo Credit Larry Oreglia

The city is dotted by a collection of terraces known as miradouros (viewpoints), with stunning views of Lisbon, and the ocean beyond. Around every corner are unexpected delights, unique shops, charming cafes to stop for an espresso (bica), an elegant glass of Touriga Nacional, maybe a refreshing pitcher of sangria while we marvel at the almost fairytale scenery.

Photo Credit Ken Oreglia

After a long day of touring Lisbon, we gathered for dinner at a local restaurant, before the young people head back to Rua Nova do Carvalho, which is most commonly known as Pink Street, a popular place to enjoy Lisbon’s thriving nightlife. Us oldies sat on the balcony sipping wine until the wee hours of the morning. 

We did go to bed before the kids but there was an issue with the lights around 4:00 am which I am not copping to mind you. I’m simply sharing. I was trying to turn off the lights when the kids returned but only succeeded in illuminating every room in the house, accidentally of course. Unbeknownst to me, the lights are connected to sensors, set off by movement, and you have to be a Ph.D. in engineering to figure out how to turn off the circuitry. Let’s just say it was memorable. 

Welcome to Portugal.

As the world turns we arrive on Sunday morning, while the rest of the house recovers from last night’s shinanigans Tony, Thalita, Larry and I head to Flora and Fauna for a unique breakfast, Portuguese hippy is the closest I can come, it involves seeds, acai, avocados, and bananas. Enough said.

I can’t be positive but we’ve only been in town for two days and I think we’ve worn out our hosts? 

Photo Credit Ken Oreglia

We spent a day touring Cascais, a small oceanfront community, with a thriving harbor, beautiful trails along the coast, and exceptional shopping. One of my favorite cities is Sintra, it’s dotted with castles, lush gardens, and striking coastal mansions. It’s charming, like Larry, but less formidable. I found the bread plates I’ve been coveting since my last trip to Portugal two years ago. Yes, I bought them and hand-carried them all the way home. It’s not like I walked but I will boast that they arrived unscathed. 

Photo Credit Ken Oreglia

I ate octopus, please don’t comment, I still feel bad. 

Photo Credit Martica Oreglia

We attended a traditional Fado dinner, listening intensely to the impassioned songs of the Fado singers, but not understanding a single word. The thing is you know exactly what they’re saying, it’s a performance about longing, love, and fervent desire. You feel it because love is the one language the Tower of Babel couldn’t confuse. It’s just unrequited and maybe that’s the purpose of life. Figuring out how to love? 

Before we were ready Marta, Ken, Sophia, and Martica headed to Madrid to return Sophia to her study abroad program and spend a few days with family and friends in Spain. 

Photo Credit Stranger in the Street

Allowing Tony and Thalita time to catch up on work Larry, Dante and I walked from Parede to Cascais along a coastal path stopping for libation and fries along the way. We sauntered along the cobbled streets of town browsing through shops before taking the train home. After a refreshing shower, we headed to Tony’s and Thalita’s for appetizers and wine. 

Tonight Larry and I split off from the group for a private dinner at Tascono’s while Tony, Thalita, and Dante went out for burgers. Our dinner was an experience in itself, from the appetizers to the fresh lobster, oysters, prawns, and crab we feasted like kings, topping off the meal with a dry port. 

Exiting the restaurant I glance down the street to see my sons walking together, looking more alike as the years pass, laughing because they closed down a beachfront bar. This mama’s heart is filled with joy. 

Photo Credit Marta Oreglia

We exceeded 20,000 steps just about every day except Thursday, Larry’s birthday, when I scored less than 100 steps, but I did make six heroic trips to the bathroom while wrestling with an aggressive flu bug. Thank God it was only the twenty-four-hour kind. 

In one wretched moment, I managed to screw up all the plans Tony and Thalita had so painstakingly put in place for a fabulous weekend. The five of us had reservations to stay overnight at a winery in Douro Valley for a tour, tasting, and birthday dinner. Then on to Porto the next day to check out the town and enjoy some traditional Portuguese port. Fortunately, they were able to cancel without penalties.

Photo Credit Sophia Oreglia

As Larry is known to say, tough times don’t last, tough people do. The kids pivoted and figured out how to celebrate the birthday boy locally while I languished around the commode. Larry was treated to lunch along the pristine coast, aka “his favorite meal,” comprised of excessive amounts of chicken, french fries, and cold beer. That night while I computed how much weight I had lost, Tony and Thalita came back to our place to cook dinner and surprise Larry with a scrumptious red-velvet birthday cake. I joined them from a distance as my digestive system began to stabilize. 

Photo Credit Cheryl Orelgia

Saturday morning I began to panic prematurely about the dwindling hours I have left with my son. The five of us piled into Tony’s car and head towards Setubal, stopping for a traditional Portuguese brunch along the coast. After touring the ruins of Castelo de Palmela located on the edge of the town (made me think of Outlander), we found a tile shop established in the 1800s and purchased a customized Casa dos Oreglia sign for the lake house. 

We ended our journey with a small glass of muscatel in the town square. It was a good day. That evening we gathered for dinner at a restaurant called ironically California which reminded me I would be back on the same side of the other side of the world all too soon. 

Our final day in Portugal found us at a live game of soccer at the Sporting Stadium in Lisbon. As I watched the teams kicking the ball with equal force towards their respective goals, fighting to defend their turf, I felt much the same. Equal parts of me wanting to be home vs more time with Tony fought it out on the field of my mind. Home won while I mourned the end of the game. 

Photo Credit Larry Oreglia

The hugs goodbye were wracked with longing and dolor. Admittedly I was unable to maintain my composure or the corresponding flood of emotion that accompanied me to bed. He’s made a life here in Portugal, and I have to accept this or remain in a continual state of suffering, which is simply wanting what I can’t have. 

If the purpose of life for sentient beings is to have a happy life then Tony has chosen well. I value his ingenuity and persistence to pursue that which has captured his heart, passion, and curiosity. Lisbon is a bountiful place, full of opportunity, and adventure. 

Photo Credit Cheryl Oreglia

This could very well be a natal moment when a new reality is born or I could finally be learning to enjoy those rare moments of exaltation awaiting on the other side of the same side of the world. I can live with that. 

I’m Living in the Gap, holding tight to warm memories, I’d be thrilled if you’d join me in the comments. What are you holding tight to these days?


Leave a Comment

    1. Thanks Sue, I appreciate you making space for me to toss ideas around this morning and how that discussion resulted in this post! And yes, damn that Alan Jackson…Hugs, me


    1. Thank you Chris, I might be moving along to a “point of acceptance,” as you say but I arrived here kicking and screaming! It’s a great life lesson, we want others to thrive, and to do so we have to accept, support, and allow each other to spread our wings. I’m sure I’ll have it down when I get a little older…Hugs, C


      1. “The first hug always brings me to tears which I now recognize as tiny waves of grief. I grieve for all those missed years, the intimacy formed through daily encounters, the casual bond between mother and son that time and distance can erode”.
        WOW. And no, you were NOT being dramatic in your defense, because It IS true. Yup. . . “Kicking and screaming” indeed.

        That’s because only we can see ‘ALL’ the brilliance, uniqueness, and other gifts from God they hold, be they 13, 26, or 52. . . (Oh, and hopefully, hopefully later a spouse sees it too 😉

        But, ‘we’ the parents? Though we have to accept it, we are never really “okay” with the separation. The dad’s pull a brave face, but as the mom? Girl? ‘my mom’ would tell you:
        “You can sit right up in bed at 2:00 AM, metaphorically yanking the mike right off the stand sayin’ Hell No, I Am Not Okay With This”. . .Not even one tiny bit.

        Your words about your tears spoke volumes neighbor. Caused me to weep up a bit. My mom is at the center of that, having left her home and family in London, and then had to “re-leave” them every time she left to return to the states. ‘London’ was always “Home” to mom, not Campbell.
        Thank you for writing this today, Cheryl. You have a gift, and your prose really touched me today, especially after returning from a 5 day weekend with my two girls in LA, so I’m a little sad, as for the first time since I moved them down to SoCal 4 years ago, I don’t have a “next time” to see them date planned.

        So? As you so eloquently wrote, we cry. . . because of those lost moments of Love.

        Pax Christi,

        Liked by 1 person

        1. It appears you have generations of mulling through and eventually coming to grips with living apart from what you know and love. In your moms case, London. We had a lay over in London on our way home, of course it was not enough time to leave the airport but I longed to sneak out and explore. I’ve never been to London but I’ll confess to a obsession with the accent. So damn charming. When you spoke of leaving your girls without a return date, I totally get that, I don’t care if it’s months away, I have to have a date to hold on to if only in my mind, or it’s impossible to leave. Thank you for sharing your experience with separation and lost years Chris. I didn’t realize your mom lived here but London was her home. Now we both understand…Hugs, C


    1. Hi Jan, loved finding you in the WP comments! I know it’s a rather complicated process to set up so thanks for persisting. I’m claiming time with family as precious these days and sometimes rare. At this age we realize how fast it all goes, it was my parents last lesson that taught me to cherish the time I have left. Maybe we should have retired a decade ago? Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Why and how did your son move to Lisbon? I’m missing the back story. But I relate to your mom emotions with my kids in Berkeley and me in Scottsdale. It’s a distance and a foreign country to us. Fabulous post again

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi E! Yes, I suppose that is confusing with not back story. My son Tony graduated from UC Davis about 6 years ago and after graduation he found out Australia was offering 18 month visas for recent engineering graduates. So he signed up and was granted an 18 month visa. When he left for the airport he was just a boy and I was frantic. How in the world was he supposed to land in Australia, secure housing, get a job, and establish himself without his mother? Well I’ll be damned if he didn’t do it all but thrived in the exotic environment. He signed on with a start up which eventually granted him a permanent visa, found an adorable apartment in a darling beach town, and joined a rugby club. Our dear friends Lynelle and Mic live in Sydney and they sort of adopted Tony while he was there. He met Thalita and the two of them decided to move to Portugal a little over two years ago, it was closer to both their families (Tony in the USA and Thalita is from Brazil), and obviously Thalita speaks Portuguese. So they’ve been thriving in Portugal, Thalita owns her own marketing business and Tony signed on with an engineering company based out of Paris. But they also have an office in New York so I’m hopeful… We’ve been lucky, Larry and I have been able to visit Tony in both Australia and Portugal and he’s been able to come home many times despite the pandemic. Thanks for traveling with me and connecting with me on an emotional level. Oh how we love our kids…hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Lauren, it was amazing, and I so appreciate you traveling with me. We had a wonderful time but it’s always nice to be home. My daughter Kelley from Boston arrived late last night. She’s staying with us for a month as she and her husband close out their Boston apartment and will be moving to New York City by June. So I’m enjoying time this month with my children who live out of the area and I’m overjoyed. Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Pete, it was a whirlwind trip but I so enjoyed every minute with Tony. We had a layover in London on the way home and I thought of you. As we flew over London I wished I had more time to explore this extraordinary city. Someday we’ll extend the layover and spend some quality time in your hometown. It’s good to be home and finally have time to catch up with everyone! Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Pete, I will absolutely take you up on that offer when I return to London. That would be amazing to see the “real London,” instead of just the tourist traps. And you better be alive! xxoo C

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi LA, it was wonderful and I already miss him! I’m sure you can relate with your daughter away at the university! I love that the children are thriving and enjoying their lives but its difficult when we’re apart for long stretches of time. And I got the flu! I couldn’t believe it but apparently it’s going around in Lisbon and I hosted it for a day! Bugger! Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

        1. And the best part is knowing that we can and that they will be all right. That’s the payoff for a parenting job well done. If only it was as easy to assure their happiness!

          Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Keith, thank you for traveling with me, as you know when you write it’s as if living the experience twice. I loved sifting through the memories and remembering it all again. Thanks for joining me! Hugs, C


    1. Hi Dorothy, I love how you put that, “a wonderful treat,” and ever so delicious! Coming from a master chef this comment made me smile! Thanks for traveling with me and “tasting” the experience! Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like a wonderful trip – minus the stomach thing!!! Loved seeing the pics and especially liked the “pink road”. It is so lovely that so many of your family members made this trip together. Your son is blessed. I get how hard it is to leave when your adult children have made their home “somewhere else”. The heart aches but the mind knows that you have done your job well! Best Wishes! Leigh

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Leigh, thank you for your wise words, “the heartaches but the mind knows that you have done your job well.” I tell myself that as if a mantra! And even so, I secretly harbor wishes that all of my children lived on the same street and we had connecting fences. My dream, their nightmare! My sister and brother-in-law, Marta and Ken, were already planning a family trip to Madrid to visit their daughter who’s studying abroad so they just pivoted and added Portugal to their itinerary. It was so much fun having them join us! Thanks for joining me Leigh and connecting to the larger emotions as we journey through life. Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  3. C, I couldn’t wait to see you again. Like always, you beautifully captured your entire stay in such an amazing way. I can imagine the time you took to put this all together. The pictures were the highlight. You, Larry, Ken, Marta, the girls, YOUR SONS, his partner….everyone looking so beautiful and happy. This last winter found me greeting my new reality. A reality that I had denied for 9 years. Perhaps I thought a “stint” in the military wouldn’t be a long stay? That I’d feel the gigantic hugs, the knowing looks, the times we spent driving and listening to music….I’d feel it all again and soon. Soon didn’t come. So I filled my life with people and things that didn’t last. My tears flowed when you spoke of your sons…the greeting, the bar “walk”, the goodbye at the game. I understand them well. I’m so glad your trip was wonderful and am sorry you had a nasty bug, too!! C, I love your words and life. God bless you and happy belated birthday to Larry! Hugs and much love, K ❤️🤗

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awe, hello K, I’ve missed you. And yes indeed, you deeply understand these potent emotions of loss, heartache and accepting new realities. It’s so strange to me when I had this little family I never thought it would end? I don’t know how I visualized the future but I assumed it would include all my children living in close proximity. Apparently I raised kids who like to spread their wings and fly and indeed they all did. I’m beginning to realize I can be a part of the life they are pursuing but only on the fringe, a visitor if you will, I’m not the center anymore, and that takes courage to admit that shift. Baby steps… I suppose love is love no matter how it is experienced, expressed, and demonstrated. I’ll take what I can get and nestle in those memories forever after! Thanks for traveling this life with me K, for relating to the emotions and struggles of being human, and for choosing love over all else. Wrapping you in my love and gently hugs, xxoo C

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve missed you, too. Your response is as beautiful as the post. I’m holding these words dear in my heart ❤️. I’m glad our sons spread their wings and are loving their best lives! I love how you worded it, “on the fringe”, a “visitor”. I had more than one breakdown of my spirit to get to here. I’m able to sit with my sadness like a dear friend and then wave goodbye after our “session”. The sessions are shorter. ❤️ I feel your hugs and love and am so glad to be on this journey with you. I hope you feel mine! ❤️💛🤗


    1. Sorry Nana, I did my share of bawling too! I’m holding on to the next visit, hopefully this summer, and then the next one for Nick’s wedding, and the next, and the next…if we can just keep the cousins planning weddings! xxoo, C


    1. Hi Diane, I missed this one. Thank you, it was so worth the travel time to spend time with my boy. It’s a beautiful country, I could have spent a month there, but honestly it was the people I came to see! Hugs, C


    1. Thank you LaDonna, it was an incredible experience. Always difficult to leave, especially leaving my expectations behind, and celebrating each other living our dreams. Portugal is a spectacular place! Thanks for reading and joining me in the comments! 💕C

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s strange not to be able to see/in person all my kids when I want to. The pandemic made it all the worse! Now I try and appreciate the time I’m with them. Whenever that may be. Thanks for coming along with me and musing about the idea of dual realities! I love that about you. 💕C

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey Cheryl!
    I really enjoyed reading of your Portugal trip. (It is now on the list!) Great times. Totally jealous (except the trots.) Your whole blog really hit home about how important family is and how quickly time goes by. Your son has surely grown up, and you can rest peacefully knowing that he can make it on his own. Sadly, you spend your life raising your kids so they can go out into the world and forge a life of their own. And then dammit, it sucks when they do.
    The pictures were great, and your family is beautiful. Love the umbrellas.
    Man, I need to go somewhere. My daughters are scheming up an Iceland trip.
    Really looking forward to seeing you all.

    Great, touching Alan Jackson song.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mike, Portugal is worthy of making the travel list, it’s an extraordinary place, and I can’t wait to return. Of course Tony is a huge attraction, one I’ll return to see over and over again. I do mourn for all the missed time while we’re apart but I respect people who go out and live life on their own terms, even if it’s in a foreign country. I suppose the lesson here is to enjoy the time we have together. Speaking of time together, I’m so looking forward to seeing you soon, time to get packing! Happy Passover, Easter, blessed spring. BTW – Great song, mother and child reunion, nailed it!


  5. If we’re lucky, sometimes the best we can hope for is that our paths will cross with that of our wandering children at least once in a while. I call those times our family holidays, no matter where or when they happen. Glad you got to experience your most recent family holiday in such a beautiful spot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, it certainly is a holiday whenever my path crosses with my children’s! I cherish those moments as if they were sacred! Which they are. I love that my children have forged their own lives but I do miss them something terrible. At least Tony landed in Portugal, a beautiful place to visit and explore. Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

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