I find quiet moments with another soul very precious. Somehow silence encourages one to open up to another. Maybe it’s the warm embrace of safety that seems so synonymous with peace and serenity that has to do with one feeling secure enough to simply gush.
I remember it to be a rainy evening and both Dad and I were doing the post-meal time routine clean-up (we just had our dinner then) – Dad would bring the dishes/ bowls/ utensils to the kitchen island and I would transfer them all into the washing basin where I’d do the washing. Other than the trickling of tap water, the occasional cling of glasses, clanks of utensils against each other/ pots or the ticking of Dad’s fingers pushing down the keys on his laptop, it was complete and utter comfortable silence. (I treasure comfortable silence with any person. It’s so very rare that silence beyond the scientifically-proven four seconds doesn’t turn awkward.)
Despite the comfort I felt surrounding me, I craved interaction with Dad too, considering it isn’t every day that I have him here with me.
“Papa, did You have a favourite singer-slash-musician growing up? Play a song or something,” I requested, with a pretty long and exaggerated “pleeeeeeaaaasssseeee” that followed. Dad obliged and began searching YouTube for music videos/ recording of performances done by the singers/ musicians of his time, i.e. the 50s to 80s, as he began verbally listing out his favourites, “Hermann van Veen, Reinhard Mey, Udo Jürgens, Liberace, …”
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He then shared with me Elvis Presley’s experience during his 18-month military stint in Germany. I did a little search on this too and here was what I came across: “He came, he saw, he rocked: On October 1, 1958, Elvis Presley docked in the port of Bremerhaven aboard the USS General Randall to serve with the US military in Germany. From there, he travelled by train to the American base in Friedberg near Frankfurt, where fans and the press gave him a rousing welcome. With more than 50 million records sold, Elvis was already an international star. On October 2, the “King” moved into Ray Barracks in Friedberg. His room was in building 3707. Elvis served his 18 months of military duty in an armored tank unit. Thanks to his superiors, however, Private Presley enjoyed a few perks and had only limited duties. The star quickly swapped his barracks for a hotel and later an apartment in the neighboring town of Bad Nauheim. Day and night, teenage fans waited to catch a glimpse of the King. And those who waited long enough were rewarded: Elvis never denied anyone his much sought-after signature. In particular, the teenage girls were thoroughly enamoured. His famous swivelling hips were all the rage and his schmaltzy crooning made many a female heart beat faster.” Oh and fun fact: It was in Germany that he met Priscilla Beaulieu (1945–), his future wife.
The ‘jamming session’ started off with Dad singing “Warum bin ich so fröhlich, so fröhlich, so fröhlich? Warm bin ich so fröhlich?” (“Why am I so happy, so happy, so happy? Why am I so happy?”) before Herman van Veen from YouTube joined my Dad in belting out his single from 1986.
Next up was Udo Jürgens’s “Immer wieder geht die Sonne auf” (“The sun always comes up again”), and it got to about the first chorus when suddenly my Dad went silent. I turned around to find Dad with the circles around his eyes turning a bright red and his lips firmly shut as they quivered ever so slightly. When he cried there was a rawness to it, like the pain was still an open wound. He would clasp onto something for support, this time he had clasped hands, as if he felt he only had himself for support. I left the dishes as they were and rushed over to hug Dad – Dad who would usually look so indestructible and formidable, looked so broken and at the mercy of whatever thoughts were gripping his mind. As I leaned down to hug him from behind, I noticed that he had goose pimples spread all across his exposed skin and right there and then, I knew.
He was at the mercy of nostalgia and memories.
He shifted his position slightly, moved one hand to my arms which were wrapped around him and the other to cover his lips, as if he wanted to cover up the clearly emerging emotions. Nostalgia of passed youth is a painful painful pill to swallow and I could only imagine how it is to wish one had more of life ahead of him/ her.
I didn’t say anything other than, “Oh Papa…” and he didn’t utter anything more than, “Sometimes I just realise how much time has passed and how I’m no longer the young boy I used to be. Age catches up with You. Treasure this time You have. Make the most of what You have left.”
We shared a solemn night that day, but I was once again awoken by Dad’s cheery “Good morning!” the next. I love that about Dad – how he is thankful for being able to live through another dawn, how his gratitude clearly oozes through his demeanour and how he loves life so unconditionally.