Kennedy Augusto Beer: Across the Sky, Connected by the Little Things
Ink on paper
My sister and I only knew Augusto from my mother’s memories and stories. We learned that he was from a country across the Atlantic Ocean, a country nestled in Africa, Guinea-Bissau. We learned that Augusto Beer lived with my mom’s family from time to time as he attended university in Detroit. And our memories, which are our mother’s memories, converge around a smile which completely took over Augusto’s face.
To me, Augusto felt like a beloved family member, one rooted in the past, one I never got the chance to meet. When he was finished with university, he took his education back to his home-country, my mom was in her late teens by then.
Augusto’s friendship filled an empty space in my mother’s life, one that she did not know was there until she was older, reminiscing that Augusto “represented both the vastness of the world and reality that we are all incredibly connected by little things and these little things are what help us learn about each other even when, at the beginning, we didn’t speak the same language.”
My mother shared with me how her family received news of Augusto “through the grapevine”, news relaying that Augusto had a son, and, later, that Augusto had died. But the news was never confirmed, and so Augusto drifted into the memories and stories I know so well.
My mother’s fierce hope threaded the memories to the present: looking for Augusto, she called the UN, over and over, researched and questioned, and waited. In 2008 high-speed internet came our way, and my mother searched and searched, and waited, and found nothing.
As the years went by, her searching dwindled to entering “Augusto Beer” into a search engine in her free moments until it became habit, but to no avail. That is until in 2012, when the search revealed a Facebook page belonging to someone named Kennedy Augusto Beer. And there, was Augusto’s smile. My mom had found Augusto’s son.
With the help of a faulty online translator, my mom composed an instant message in Portuguese, the language she remembered Augusto speaking. The message had been left unread for two years when my mom learned that for a Facebook user to see your message, you must first become “friends”. She promptly clicked the friend button, composed another poorly translated message, and within 24 hours, Kennedy responded.
And so, through bits of English and poorly translated Portuguese, we communicate, about memories sometimes, mostly about little bits of life. Kennedy confirmed that Augusto had died, and shared with us elements of his life, at the time he lived with his mother and siblings, aspiring to go to college.
Now, Kennedy is living in Brazil and close to graduating from college. And just before Christmas in 2018, we video chatted for the first time. Through the language barrier, through our smiles and emotion, we connected through the little things, our faces communicating more than words ever could.
To me, it seems as if my mom’s grief over the loss of Augusto is soothed with our connection to Kennedy. She told me there is no way to express how much love she has for Kennedy, but that was the perfect explanation: some connection does not need to be explained but felt.
And just now, when my mom saw today’s piece, and checked the facts in this story for accuracy, she told me that while she will never see Augusto again, she marvels in how their children know each other, and how we’ve found connection and know each other’s smiles.
For today’s piece, I used pointillism to render Kennedy’s eye because I was inspired by all the little things that connect us. Kennedy took a photo of himself for me and it inspired me to draw his eyes resting in the clouds. In the photo, he is laying on the ground, looking up, and reflected in his eyes is the phone he holds above him and behind the phone, the sky.
A sky that made me think of the people across the planet who had also seen clouds and sky, and perhaps we had breathed in the same molecules—connected by the little things.