I called my Grandfather this morning.
He lives in the Philippines with Mother (which I have written down before). I grew up with them because my mum and dad worked. To send us to school, to allow us to live life to the full. But this is not one to point fingers. My dad did amazing things for me, so did my Grandfather, who shaped me into who I am now.
I remember calling “Tatay” (which is the Filipino translation for the word Father) even though he was my grandfather. He listened to The Beatles, Pearl Jam, REO Speedwagon, Bryan Adams, Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin and majority of musicians from his generation every evening in his souped up stereo which he keeps in what I’d call a “treasure box” because it was strictly off limits. But to my 6 or 5 year old self – It was something to be explored.
I remember sneaking into the treasure box one day when him and mother were not around and found myself putting the first tape I ever saw into the radio. It was Please Please Me by The Beatles. From there on, he taught me his music, even though he wasn’t there. I was singing to “I Saw Her Standing There” and endlessly repeated it. Until now, I listen to it as if it was just the day before.
But it was never easy for me to get along with him. As I grew up he became a lot stricter on me. I don’t recall any point where he lifted a hand on me but I do remember him shutting me up by playing the first cartoon I ever knew in my entire life – Yellow Submarine. I remember fighting with John, Paul, George and Ringo against the Meanies and being amazed by the colors and then feeling good because the bad guys became good guys in the end. When I grew older, you’d play Paul McCartney’s concerts for me and then when he sings “Let it Be” and “Hey Jude” you’d tell me about the story behind the song, how Hey Jude was supposed to be a song about feeling better after a breakup and that Let it Be was the song to go to when one had troubles in one’s life. I thank you Grandfather, for letting me see that, it was because of you that I sang “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” during our 5th grade Christmas party even though everyone else was into Mandy Moore or some rock bands back then. To me it was only The Beatles and you.
I never got a chance to talk to you deeply, but the music that we both enjoy registers beyond that level. At first I though that your music was a bore every time that you played it while I was watching television and you needed to turn off the TV to listen. But now I long for the nights when I did my thesis while being accompanied by “Aqualung” or “Stairway to Heaven”. You taught me without words, you just stared at me, played your music and hoped for me to pick it up which I did. Now, I’m not ashamed of myself when I find myself bopping my head inside the train and screaming to “Please Mister Postman”. You taught me to listen to good music.
I called you today Grandfather. And your first words were: “Oh, where are you?”. It brought the band in me to a standstill. You cared. You did, after nineteen years of staying with me: Breaking your silence when you gave me advice about love, staying up and playing the music we both love while I was studying, telling your brothers that I listen to John Lennon and even the time when you had me transfer your music to USBs because you’ve gone digital. You made me who I am grandfather, and I’m proud to tell everyone that I listen to The Beatles and mostly everyone from the 50’s because you taught me about them.
I never really knew what was in your mind when you stared at me. But having talked to you and even laughed with you. I now know, that inside both of us are soft; and it was The Beatles that brought us together.
Happy Father’s Day Tatay. Thank you for the music.