Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Today, A Dozen Years Ago

On this day, twelve years ago, my great ancestor died the death of the body. Today, in my 200th post in this blog, I shall remember things of his essence, and what they meant to me.

1. "That's a rook." "Why does it look like a castle?" "Hrmm. Well, that's what it is too." And so I learnt to play chess, aged four. I know I wasn't five yet, because I remember sight-reading the 1972 World Championship games between Robert J Fischer and Boris Vasilievich Spassky. I took me years before I could beat him - my grandfather, that is.

2. It was he who first detected my colour-blindness. Who would have known that stamp-collecting could have gone so far towards compensating for that woeful genetic lapse? Now, with years of neurobiology aiding us, we know that the brain can be retrained to compensate for almost any loss which isn't total. How on earth did Grandfather know?

3. Early morning piano-playing. Again, it took me years to figure out his game. It was all a joke of sorts - one day, I picked up the scores he had uncharacteristically left lying around on the music-stand. Chopin's Nocturnes, forsooth; Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, as well. I always wondered whether anyone else had figured it out.

4. Slightly less-early morning house calls. I used to accompany him on his rounds, when he visited the old, infirm, unwell, and hypochondriac. He would tell me about how fingers told him stories, how the pulse and the rush of air in the lungs spoke volumes. And he taught me how to read the Latin inscriptions on his pharmacy bottles.

5. That, of course, led to the gift of a small koiné Greek New Testament, and his sister's (my grandaunt's) invaluable notes. He read Hebrew too, but I drew the line there, not too confident of a language with shifting vowels. I remember consuming endless slices of my grandmother's rich chocolate fudge cake while he pointed out things and worked on his Bible study notes for the church newsletter. I remember now that his own father had helped translate the Bible into peranakan Malay.

There are many ways in which my life would have been much less richer without him and his wife, my grandma. I would never have learnt to assemble archives, never have learnt the virtues of teak as a building material or oil of wintergreen as a painkiller. I would never have learnt to make cobwebs from plastic cement. I would never have learnt the drastic oxidising properties of potassium manganate(VII). You can see the in memoriam notice in today's newspapers. But such reminders of mortality teach us nothing of the people they commemorate.

And today, a dozen years ago, I see (as through a glass darkly) his breathing stop and my grandmother weep. His last words were, "...and underneath are the everlasting arms." The morphine bottle by his bedside stood unused and full, the antidote to his only fear. His mortal vessel lay on the bed, fully used but empty. I will never forget that evening - because I was late by a few minutes, and was not there.

6 Comments:

Blogger The Fascist said...

This post moved me in such a heart-wrenching manner. It reminded me of my own grandpa, and how I should spend more time with him. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006 2:19:00 am  
Anonymous Becca said...

I have to agree with Daryl. Yes, as the notice said very aptly, "rejoice in the certain hope of heaven", for truly you "shall meet again".

The Coming of the Lord
13Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18Therefore encourage each other with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Wednesday, October 11, 2006 12:37:00 pm  
Blogger sleepyboi said...

a reali nice post sir, makes me think of my own granddfather. sadly, he past away on 25th of dec, christmas. sometimes i reali wonder, its rather ironic that christ is born on that day, while my grandfather died. seemed abit unfair to me, for he is a great man, respectable, and live a rightful life, y he had to past so quickly. He may not be a man of great doings, but to me..he is the best. Y do people have to die, cuz they full-filled their destiny? i reali dont noe

But christmas will never be the same again

PS: juz my 2cents of thought

Thursday, October 12, 2006 7:02:00 pm  
Blogger BS said...

Hmm yeah i remember that part of Deuteronomy 33:27 from Our Daily Bread a while ago...

Perhaps God gave him the strength to overcome that fear without the painkillers.

Sad that I never knew either of my Grandfathers much, but i'm sure all their legacies live on in their progenies, as yours does in your family..

Saturday, October 14, 2006 11:12:00 pm  
Blogger Augustin said...

Haha, my grandfather was a simple man. He was just a boxer, or rather, a fighter. Yes, he did fight the Japanese but he also left behind a legacy of fighting; his children are still fighting among each other and with society till this day.

Sunday, October 15, 2006 5:15:00 am  
Blogger Sprezzatura said...

With Thy Saints, give rest, O Christ, to the soul of Thy servant, where there is no pain, no sorrow, no sighing, but life everlasting.

- from the Orthodox Service for the Departed

Wednesday, October 25, 2006 9:42:00 pm  

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