The first time I met Dimitris Psarras, I was not sure we would get along. A brilliant guy, with passions to match, he’s not a good listener. And a talker like me, well… At his house outside Hersonissos, overlooking the Cretan Sea at, I was convinced of one thing, this man cares.
In a previous article of mine I talked about Dimitris being a key expert on sustainable development, and especially for Crete island. For years Dimitris has worked to help Crete farmers and businesses to create models and strategies for truly long-term developmental goals. But, the heart and passion of this man are only faintly revealed in passing circumstances. For instance, no one would believe that anyone would contribute so much, with so little interest in profit or personal gain. In this, he and I are very much alike.
“When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry.” – William Shakespeare
I feel like I must characterize my friend’s attitude, and travails, where erstwhile endeavors to help improve the Cretan existence are concerned. So as to take some burden off the reader, it’s fair to portray Dimitris’ helping epoch in this way. After almost a decade of worrying himself sick over the impossibility of changing the average Cretan’s mind, Psarras looks in the mirror to see himself whittled away with worry and stress. He frequently tells me of his aggravation and disdain for his people, over this. But, I am slightly more astute. Able to discern true love and caring in a person who feels helpless to help them. The Cretans, I mean. You see, Dimitris loves Crete and her people, it’s this adoration that chisels him to the bone, since he cannot get them to feel the alarm of unsustainable life. This hardheadedness in them, eats at me, as well. But my friend has been “at it” a lot longer.
Please do not misunderstand, Dmitris Psarras and I have not known one another so long, but recognizing a blazing comet of a person does not require scientific lab experiments. The generosity a person shows, the authentic fire in their eyes, and key moments serve to tell. I will explain, but first the reader must know that Dimitris is also the world’s biggest cheese mouse, as my wife says.
A few weeks back Dimitris called me to invite my wife Mihaela (above with Dimitris and Kostas) and I to a little adventure in the hills overlooking the quaint village of Melidochori, in Heraklion Prefecture’s heart. On a sunny afternoon we met up with Dimitris, his father Nikos, and the latter’s nurse Maria, to head up to the karob farm of another wonderful friend, Kostas Karatzis, who is doing cutting edge experiments in carob syrup production. This is another story. What I want to say about my friend here, comes from a touching moment I witnessed at Melidochori, out in the middle of what Americans would call “God’s country.”
Kostas’ country house is a very remote place, on a beautiful slope that sits beneath what was once a Minoan settlement. A modern house, the place is not connected to utilities. It’s a kind of lodge/enclave where nature and solitude, or what I would call “reality” can be found in abundance. That said, it is not exactly geared to people handicapped by age or infirmity, which brings me to Dimitris, and the only characteristic that really matters in this world. Love.
“Without dignity, identity is erased. In its absence, men are defined not by themselves, but by their captors and the circumstances in which they are forced to live.“ – Laura Hillenbrand
When my friend said he would have to get his Dad ready for the day-trip to Melidochori, like most people, I only assumed Nikos might be of advanced age etc. What I could not know is that a recent turn in Dimitris’ father’s health had devastated the previously healthy man. Nikos is in pretty dire straits, as these things go, but is lucky in two senses. First, this is someone for whom dignity and ample pride force him forward through what is now horrid physical anguish. I cannot begin to imagine what it must take to refuse the wheelchair, and to still attempt the arduousness of even one step. Watching Nikos negotiate (with help) the steps up to Kostas’ veranda, made me realize for the first time what a blessing firm legs are for most of us. But Nikos’ travail is not what impressed me most. The power of a son’s love was and is.
In my life, I’ve known so many people who’ve gone through hardship. Many of my friends have watched their children suffer, strumble, and even pass away before their eyes. Some, like my friend Stacy James in America, carried for years the frail and motionless vessel of her daughter on her shoulders, so that the soul sheltered within could breathe in life, cast her sweet eyes on the majesty of God’s creation, even if cognition and capability were lost. Sadness? Utter defeat transformed into triumph? I guess we’ve all witnessed our share. But how many sons or daughters, mothers and fathers crutch up the dignity of their stricken loved ones? Many drag and bear the burden of stricken family, but I never saw anyone love the soul of another human being, the way Dimitris Psarras worships his father. I can only wonder at what kind of man raised such a fine boy.
“The ideal man bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of circumstances.” – Aristotle
It’s not so often that any of us gets a clear window pane onto pure love. We grasp at it. We try to clutch the coattails, the appendages, the feathery fringes of affection and devotion. But more often than not, we find ourselves clutching vapor, or ashes, or the dried leaves from the tree of God’s kindness. To see a son kiss his father’s head. To catch the teary glimpse in his eye, the pride, and the caring in the final moments of the journey… Well, it makes one feel very small and humble, I can tell you. Dimitris Psarras is a wonderful son. There can be no doubt.
Now that I’ve made my keyboard wetter than it was before I started writing this, maybe my story should wind up by just letting you think about your own experiences. As for Dimitris and his father Nikos, I can only feel joy and a hint of jealousy for sharing the closest human bond, in a world where so much love and dignity is lost. Oh, and I forgot to mention, Dimitris is also the biggest goofball I’ve met in thirty years.
I told you, my friend, I told you. Now wipe your smartphone’s screen. And stay out of the cheese cellar.