Every being has a memory buried deep in the realm of consciousness one that is never out of reach when needed the most. It serves as a reminder of the phase we hold most dear to ourselves — childhood, either you’ve had a happy one or one that has scarred you for a lifetime. I hold mine as a shrine. Like a Patronus Charm that helps me break through my personal Dementors. While there are so many to chose from, today, I focus on one.
My grandfather, whom I call ‘daddy’. Like a negative of a photograph, I have my memories of him, especially of the past, crystal clear. I remember his hat when he had come to visit us for a couple of days when I was 5. His leaving left me broken and the only thing that connected me to him at that time was his black scruffy hat that he decided to give it to me for safekeeping.
He was so excited when I won my first medal in karate. He was standing outside when I walked in, 10 years old wearing my white uniform with my prized medal dangling around my neck. “Yayyy”, he yelled as he picked me up and twirled me around.
I was 12 when we decided to move to a different state — one I still haven’t come to love. “I am not happy with the decision of you moving to this place”, he said during one of last visits at his home which I loved more than any beautiful or fancy house in the world. We moved anyway. One has no choice but live the decisions others make for them.
It was eight long years before I got to see him again. He came to pick us up and what struck me the most was how old he had become. But that’s not how I remembered him. What I saw now were his eyes a little out of focus, his movements slower than before…. Without realising our elders live a life of sacrifice. They grow old so we can grow up; even though this sacrifice, this growing old of people one calls family is painful to accept.
I grew up with him till I turned 5 thinking all the while that he was my father, not my grandfather. His house even after a decade is still the same. The labels in the kitchen specifying sugar, tea etc are the ones I grew up watching. The paper is faded. Even though overwhelming, this blast from the past provides a sense of assurance that some things don’t change.
He is 78 years old now; I got that from the tag doctors used when he underwent an operation in 2013. He served in the Air Force, fought in the ’65, ’71 and the Assam war, has received 9 medals (two he just can’t find) and because he is the son of a carpenter, whom he lost when he was very young, his house is full of interesting puzzles and other things he has made over the course of his life. He joined Air Force when he was 18 (and a half), back in 1995. “It was my first ever time using a telephone. I picked up the phone upside down, I didn’t know how to use a phone back then. I was so nervous, I quickly cut the call,” he laughed. He still has two spoons dated 1942 and 1944 which he got when he joined the forces.
The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.
Even though the world won’t remember him, like they remember Steve Jobs, when he is gone. One millionth of the world population — his family, the one he loved, the one he hurt — will always carry with them the memory of a person whose curiosity was never ending. Everything he buys, be it a clock or a car, he opens it all up and puts it back together. He now wants to learn how to play a piano and had challenged me to learn a musical instrument faster than him.
It’ll will be months or even years when I get to meet him again. But doesn’t distance make the heart grow fonder?
10, 20, 30 years max, I have with him; and I hope I don’t waste this time. I hope I make the best of them whether that includes teaching him how to change the weather location on his phone, posing in his air force cap 2,800 times or even helping him save all the reusable cups, spoons and plates which he refuses to throw away.
Making memories and remembering the ones with whom they are made, isn’t this what life is all about?