Somewhere between running water and voices, I hear drums. I can not make out what the voices are saying. Just a low murmur. I sure like the way the water and drums drown out the conversations that never stop. Pitches. Running water makes music and has different pitches in it’s rhythm. And the drum mimics the heart beat, but with decorations and ornaments that make the dragons fly by.
Grandpa was clever at devising ingenious devices, the man with the grizzled beard always kept his eyes on the world. His advice was full of cut and dried old phrases. A lifetime working at the rubber plant left him with a lack of imagination, he became an ordinary guy. A descendant of the Dutch, settlers of New York, just an off handed, lonely, Knickerbocker guy. An old patroon. He was the guardian of activity…a divine entity. But he hadn’t a clue.
So anyway, the old patroon was legally blind from a large waterfall of cataracts. Clouds over the pupils. Hmmm… He had them removed before laser surgery was discovered, and now he was 92 (now being back then). He once asked me, as death got nearer to him, if I believed if Jesus really rose from the dead.
“I guess spiritually Grampa,” I answered and thought it was a pretty good answer. But like an admission of guilt, the words escaped from my mouth and ran into his ears and did not bother to hide in the halls of his brain till it made sense upon further investigation by him.
A great hostility and rage he became. “I know spiritually! I mean literally, do you believe it?” he yelled back angrily. The doubt on the face of a man wanting so badly to believe. I felt awkward so I said nothing. Perhaps I should have been honest and said no, but I remained silent…such an empty reply. Grandma, his wife and Baptist Christian believer, died two years before. And now his lonely body was nothing but a vessel for pain and grief. Poor guy, 92 years of life, only to be reduced to this. How fucking rude of life! He wanted to see his son, who died in World War II by a Kamikaze pilot, his 18 year old body lost in the ocean forever. He wanted to see his wife again, who through the years had became half of him. He wanted to believe the Christians so he could see his wife and son in heaven, but his doubt was torturing him. He was stuck in rational mode trying to believe a story full of holes, and his mind became strapped down and wasn’t free to wonder. He just couldn’t jump the hurdle that the church put up. Strangulation by dogma.
As he laid dying in the hospital, his daughter, my aunt, lay dying from lung cancer just down the hall. But nobody told Grandpa. It would have been too much for him, they thought. I don’t know. I just let them think their thoughts, and do their deeds. My then much younger mom, his other daughter, was with him when he left this world. She watched him sit up in bed with his arms extended and call his wife’s name. My mother was sure he saw her, as he hugged the air and laid down and died.
Now I ask, “Grandpa, is there life after death?”
Silence…such an empty reply.
But somewhere between running water and voices, I hear drums.