Heart of Silence

GrandpaGrandpa was a patient, genuine and respectful man devoted to our grandmother, his children, and grandchildren. Today, on the anniversary of his death, and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I honour him.

I loved a good stereo. My grandfather had a mid-size one, about three feet tall, with an AM/FM dashboard that lit up. There was a large golden dial to scroll through stations. Like a mini drawbridge, the door below the controls flipped open to access the turntable.

The sound was decent and filled the tiny apartment where my grandparents lived. An assortment of albums, including Andy Williams, the Tijuana Brass band, Julie Andrews, and Pat Boone, filled the bottom drawer. I heard them all during my sleepovers with them, mostly at top volume. Those albums opened up my world to music I would not have listened to otherwise.

During WWII or shortly after, Grandpa became deaf in his left ear, stone deaf as my grandmother used to say, with little hearing remaining in his other ear. His hearing aid differed from the subtle bits that we find these days. Instead, he wore a device fitted behind the ear with a rather large silicone part inserted into the ear canal. Even with that apparatus, a good tune deserved full-scale treatment, some bass, and treble for the ultimate effect. So maximum volume it was.

Lacking proper headphones, our grandfather constructed a small soundbox that he attached with an external wire hooked up to the television. His hearing aid was removed, and he held the box next to his ear. In this way, he could hear his favourite show without cranking up the volume on the television, especially at night. We heard everything as well. The box was basically a mini amplifier with no possible way to mute the sound externally. Thank goodness we were blessed with good eyesight as the soundbox wire often rested on the carpet, from the TV to where Grandpa sat.

Grandpa saw great value in fixing or repurposing things. He found a way to refurbish a small appliance, clock, timepiece, or piece of jewelry. If a place like “Habitat for Humanity” existed back then, he would have been a faithful volunteer.

There was no coat closet in the apartment. Grandpa converted it into a standing workshop that housed the tools he needed for his projects. He spent hours in that cramped space, emerging for meals, prayer time with our grandmother, or when someone telephoned or visited.

A definite cliché but nonetheless true, our grandfather was a man of few words. Always soft-spoken, he never took what little hearing he had for granted. He listened earnestly to everyone and adjusted the sound on his device when necessary.

Grandpa was a gentle soul who would always pause and choose his words carefully, remaining quiet when words would not make a difference. That was a gift. Those moments of silence with him, especially after Nana died, impacted me. I sat with him, sometimes holding his hand and leaning on his broad shoulders.

Faith is something you cannot see. You can live it, you can witness it, and you can try to emulate it. You can even be touched by it. My grandfather did that for me.

The stereo eventually disappeared, but Grandpa still enjoyed a good tune. After Nana died, connecting with him was even more necessary. The TV would play in the background, and Grandpa would turn it down so we could chat.

I have some pale gold rosary beads my grandfather gave me. Time spent in silent reflection and prayer is precious. I’m grateful for that, and for the gift of peace that Grandpa shared with me.

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