A man who doesn’t have at least a “Why?” is barely aware of anything.
Now, let’s run around the bush.
One day, I had to be the irony of a fine weather. I was informed of my grandfather’s death. He died of old age. Perhaps. And not having to experience the devilish rage of 2012 was some sort of sweet consolation. At least, he’s now safe.
Grandpa was a happy old man with a broken smile that was never so discontented despite a simple life. Or…how would I know? He loved to sing his songs of forgotten genre, songs I never heard from their original singers, never from anyone else but grandpa. He loved telling stories, both true and silly…or shtiy. And if I seemed to believe all them, he’d enjoy giggling in his chair plus a couple of those broken smiles. Well, I suppose he loved keeping me guessing what to believe in and what not to. In a way, he was a playful man who’d mock you in your face in a way so discreet you’d think it was pure joke. And then he’d give you a broken smile.
When I was younger, I mean way way younger, I used to sit next to grandpa to listen to his outdated songs, most of which were serenades; sit next to grandpa to watch him draw a buffalo standing in man’s upright position, after I’d asked him to draw me a boy. I knew there was something wrong probably because it didn’t look so right. But, it was grandpa.
And then, after a long ado, I’d ask my whys and then he’d tell his lies. So there I was sitting beside the old man whose best comrade happened to be a wooden cane wrapped in black rubber at its curve to keep his grip tight. I enjoyed asking him so many questions because I wanted to hear stories of his olden times, as if it was Mr. Walt Disney storytelling about the tales of the Disney World. But it was different. It was grandpa.
So many questions, I couldn’t remember how many I’ve asked; how many why’s. That curiosity of a kid, yes; that what everybody used to never run out of – “Why?” And what did I know if what I was listening to was a truth or a lie? Or did I care?
Perhaps, what mattered was that my whys made me hours of stories, needless to know whether they were true or just some products of that man’s creativity…and boredom…and age?
Oh! But there’s one story – one story that never satisfied me.
Since the time I came to understand that grandpa was suffering from a severe fracture on his limbs and knees, noticing the cane and how it worked for him, I’ve started to wonder what on earth happened to him. I became so observant on each of his steps, out from his room to his chair, which was always waiting for him outside the house.
One day, out of whatever, I took the courage to ask, “Lolo, why can’t you walk?” (exaggerating his condition), “What happened?” And then, the story started to roll.
Grandpa said he met an accident when he was a bit younger. He said he was riding a bike down a hill when a rock took the front wheel down, throwing him off the bike and hard to and against the ground. He rolled, though. And rolled. And rolled. And yeah, maybe for one last time.
Hearing that, I recalled one of his favorite songs, which said: “Naligid, naligid…didto sa bakilid”…la la la la la. In English, this means, “(Subject) rolled and rolled…there, down the slope”. Realizing that made the twist. So, was he storytelling…or retuning a song, scraping the instrumental off the piece?
Grandpa, as he was to me, was a talking puzzle. His stories, almost all were open-ended, uncategorized, their natures, I’d say, always undecided. Sometimes, I thought that he assumed that I only wanted to hear stories of “once upon a time”, but no. I was a kid, yes, but I actually wanted to hear the real story of his broken knees. Or was it too painful for him to recall how it felt to have to take his fate, which took perhaps half of what happiness was left of him?
However, there are times when I couldn’t help but wonder why grandpa always smiled at the narra tree standing opposite our house. Until now I wonder what kept him smiling, despite a life that he was never able to tame; a life that was almost antonymous to what some words say about it; a life that was more of a lie than a life itself.
Well, lies are born not only of words. Looks are deceiving. Beauty is convincing. A smile is…elusive. And a broken smile of a happy old man, which was by birth, a twin of a tear hanging in the corner of an eye is a question I should have asked.
Yeah, right. Perhaps, a lie is one face of a story sometimes sweeter than the raw and real. Lies hurt, back and forth. But as for grandpa, I wouldn’t get mad if he’d told me sweet silly stories, never true, to get me over with my why’s.
And now that he couldn’t do anything about what life has to be, I wish it was all curiosity I had, not awareness so to make me ask why. I wish his broken smiles weren’t some of his sweet lies. Otherwise, I’d have to desperately justify that, a man who can’t “tell” at least a single lie…is out of place.