Melodies of Old
Today, unlike the many forgettable days I've spent in Napa, something different happened. Something that made me take a heavy hearted walk around the neighborhood.
I've been playing the piano for my Grandfather, Opa Dan, for more than a week now. He asked once if I can play classical music on the piano, and I told him that I could play anything but. So, he told me to play some Ambonese songs. What I thought was going to be a one night thing turns into an every other night thing. He started waking me up in the morning for a singing session, or twice; before dinner and after dinner. I took it as a way for me to spend some quality time with him. Plus, these fingers need some extra practice anyway.
On my first night, I noticed that I had lost my touch on the piano. I can't blindly go from chord to chord as effortlessly as I used to. My fingers felt like webbed duck feet. And the tunes that came out weren't exactly that great too. I was amazed that my grandfather kept on singing despite how horrible I played. I guess the semi deaf-ness helped in that department.
Then, today happened.
We were going through our usual repertoire: Ayo Mama, O Ulate, Balenggang Pata Tanjung, Sayang Kane, dan Oto Bemo. We weren't even through with the second song when his voice faltered and his eyes grew cloudy. I've always looked at him while he sung. We usually laughed or smiled at each other like we're the Von Trap family. But, that didn't happen today. Today he reminisced about his teenage years.
I know his stories. He told me a lot of them over the last couple of months that I've lived here. But I've always took it surface deep. Not with much empathy, or even a slight concern. I usually replied with a simple nod or a short "Oh yeah?". But, now with tears on play, I can't really just nod and go back to playing the piano. I had to really open my ears and spare my heart for this.
So we talked in between songs. He told me how the japanese treated his family back in war time (with respect and empathy, much to my doubtful mind). He spoke of Ulat Island, and how he used to write for a magazine every time he travelled (he was some sort of a travel blogger in his teenage years). His tears never rolled out of his eyes, though. I don't know if that's a man thing he's doing, or he wiped it when I wasn't looking.
Still, it was my first time getting a raw human emotion from Opa Dan. He always maintained a safe distance. Yet today he said that singing Ambonese songs made him remember the old days and that made him sad. I asked him what was his happiest, most memorable time in Ambon back in the day. He paused for a while. His lips moved like he was searching for the words to say, but eventually settled with, "I would have to think about it."
We ended the singing session by going to the other room and played old German and Ambonese records. I danced, sang, and laughed along with him. All the while, I can't help but wonder if I would be reminiscing of Indonesia when I got older. If so, what would I be crying about?
Time is, in this dimension, considered linear. Once we passed a season of life, we passed it for good. So, whatever you have on your plate right now, whatever you have to face, face it with the courage that will save you from a lifetime of wondering. Clean that plate with the confidence that will make you proud in the golden years of your age.
I have a long way to go. A lot of years ahead of me. Life has to be exciting, say the little weak voice down deep. But there's a price for everything. Mine is discipline, which I'll have to bite through with every ounce of faith I've got.