The essay was written four days before the author succumbed to a massive stroke. This story, about his grandfather, is his last essay
Before sunrise, he would do the rounds of his small sugarcane farm on the east side of his house. He would spend the rest of the morning checking every square meter of the field. The hours that he was away meant molto vivace for me in his backyard. I was five years old.
I ran in his backyard almost endlessly. Climbed every tree and picked every fruit I found attractive. Chased the newly-hatched chicks and tormented his dog named Blackie.
He would hunt me down with a stick every time a chick turned up dead or when the leaves of his banana trees got torn after I struck them all with my wooden sword. I would run away and laugh at him, endlessly.
He was constantly watchful of my tricks and one false move would mean a crescendo of blows with a stick he carved himself. I consistently got caught. I hated him.
Before sunset, he would turn on his Akai stereo of spectacular size—the size of a kitchen, and play everything sempre forte. Back in the day, Hi-fi stereo was powered by tubes with varying degrees of heat that activated the turntable to move in a circular motion.
It was the opus of the day: Listening to the great masters of music. And I would join him, always.
This is where we made peace.
I grew up listening to his collection of vinyl records, summer after summer, day after day in Laguna—Bach, Rachmaninoff, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and more.
It was the kind of music he admired the most.
He would pick a record, as if randomly, and fit it to the turntable, slowly lifting the cue lever and pointing the stylus at the outer edge of the record, creating a distinct sound.
The few seconds of the scratching sound of the vinyl record marked the beginning of our mutual journey. He would sit by the door of his ground floor bedroom, holding a cigarette in one hand, and a cup of coffee at the other as I sat at the staircase leading to the upper floor.
I love this genre of music, more than any other type of music. It brings out in me a concerto of feelings. The incredibly forceful sound that pounded on my chest created a melody that gave rise to a symphony of imaginations— I would pick more fruits tomorrow, eat the ripe ones, and throw away the bitter. I would run faster and laugh louder.
Everyday, in his moments of listening pleasure, I dreamt of orchestrating a better plan not to get caught.
As the music progressed with an increased range of timbres, so did the melodic sequence of dark thoughts: What if I bury the chicks alive? Or kill his dog tomorrow?
He would share his Galeta biscuits with me and let me sip his coffee when the music reached diminuendo. And gone are the thoughts about the fruits, the killing of the dog, and my endless running away and taunting this old man I called Lolo. I love this old man, I would tell myself.
Until the next day.