Plus - Appreciation

Remembering my grandfather’s voice

M.L.M. Aboosally

There are white rattan chairs on the verandah of my grandparents’ house. I remember I had found a miniature book of poetry by Omar Khayyam and was reading it on the verandah, as it was a cool day.

This is where my grandfather found me and he sat down with me and began to recite a few passages. He flipped through the pages and then said, “Here is an interesting one.”

He then read the following verses:

“One thing is certain, that Life flies;
One thing is certain, and the Rest is Lies;
The Flower that once has blown for ever dies.
Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument
About it and about: but evermore
Came out of the same Door as I went.
With them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow,
And with my own hand labour'd it to grow:
And this was all the Harvest that I reap'd -
"I came like Water, and like Wind I go."

He explained to me that this poem talked about how life is fleeting--that we arrive, live and eventually die. Big changes were taking place in my life; after the summer vacation I was going to university. I left for school in September and I saw my grandfather one last time before I left.

Memorable white rattan chair

He passed away that December, one week before I was due to return home for the break. When I read the verses he read to me that day it is as if he sensed something imminent-- I was leaving and so was he.

I wish I could say that the day was extraordinary, that we shared something great that day, that wisdom was passed to a new generation, but the truth is I sat uncomfortably, listening intently but taking nothing in. I wish I had listened. I wish I had asked questions, I wish I had not been such a fool.

Yet, was I a fool? I don’t remember the words exactly, but I found the poem he read to me and I don’t remember all my grandfather’s words, but, I do remember the sound of his voice and his dark leathery hands that shook slightly, as he held the tiny silver book. I remember thinking to myself that I must remember the moment because what a beautiful memory it would be.

When I went back to the house, the first time I had been there after my grandfather’s death, I looked for that book, I held it close and breathed in the flaky, faded cream pages hoping for any smell, any mark of his. That small silver book gave me nothing, but then it is only a book, the gentle fragile hands are gone.
On the night of my grandfather’s death, I sat alone in the common room of my dorm, that is where one of my friends found me. I was distraught, then stoic, then miserable. I remember saying to her that I feared forgetting my grandfather’s voice. She told me, “If you hear it you’ll know that it’s him.”

One day I will sit in that white rattan chair. I will wait for silence; wait for the trees, the birds, the world to stop. It will be a cool day.

I’ll hold my breath and listen. I’ll hold my breath and listen. For I remember his voice.

Imaan Ismail

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