We might seem to be unlikely friends, living thousands of miles apart and from different cultures, but we are, just the same. Magda and Fabio Lisboa from Natal, Brazil, were actually my parents’ friends, but are my friends too.

What keeps us connected are my parents, who although they are no longer here, are our common bond. What keeps us apart is distance and time.

Fabio met my father, who was doing an exchange teaching stint from the University of Southern Maine through Partners of America in Brazil.

Fabio recently told me that my father took an interest in him and his teaching career right away and encouraged him to come to the United States and do an exchange at USM.

So he did. I met Fabio at dinner at my parents’ home that first time. We talked about music and teaching and family.

I didn’t expect to see him again, but a few years later he was back at USM for another exchange. Although his wife Magda and his two daughters stayed behind in Brazil, they were much evident in conversation. We became reacquainted. Saying goodbye, I thought it was the final time.

But Fabio and his family came back two more times. They were in Orono for two years while Fabio was getting his master’s and in Ohio for three while he was getting his Ph.D. During these years I didn’t see them, but my  parents did, and kept me updated.

Finally, in 1997 the entire family, complete with Fabio’s mother this time, visited my parents. Again I thought it was the last time I’d see them.

As my parents got older, they lost touch. So after my parents died in 2004, I felt I needed to let them know. Sadly I wrote a letter, which in return they answered, and we decided to keep in touch via e-mail.

This January they visited the United States again, this time in honor of Magda’s 50th birthday. Besides Orlando and Las Vegas, one stop on their busy agenda was in South Portland to see me at my family’s house.

We had late-afternoon lunch together in the dining room. Fabio was talkative, eager to catch up on our lives and my parents’ final years and the Paul McCartney concert I saw at Fenway. He had perfected his English over the years, but maintained a beautiful cadence to it that I assumed was the Portuguese influence.

Magda was quieter, but I started to realize she was somewhat unsure of her English. We didn’t move from the table for almost two hours. Fabio repeated his invitation for me to visit them in Brazil as he drew a map of the flight directions.

“I’ll never get there,” I thought to myself. When they got into their car, I felt sad. I’m not fond of goodbyes.

But as they drove off, I realized the miles between South Portland, Maine, and Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, didn’t seem that long anymore.