It was like in some old movie. Little girl on a stool alone staring at the piano. Sunlight filtering through the empty room, warming the void they’ve left behind. Silence all through two stories of the house. Emptiness, but within that room there is warmth. The warmth of companionship – in human companion and in music. Next to her an elder man with gentle eyes, understanding smile, and graying hair. Her grandfather.
I remember the first song I ever played on the piano. It wasn’t some cute happy birthday or mary had a little lamb song. It was the national Anthem of a democratic Viet Nam. He nourished in me the burning passion of music and emotions – specifically the love for my country. Four thousand years of history all collected in one song.
I know I saw his fingers played. I know I learned the rhythm well. I can sing to every note. But today, as I was listening to Abraham play, I realized I can’t remember what his notes sounded like. Were they strong? Resilient? Angry? Defeated? Hopeful? I don’t remember the sound of his fingers, of his heart.
I was never supportive of his actions because I didn’t want to be reminded of the war. I see the scars on my father’s skin. I see the vague look he gets sometimes when he sees the uniform and the badges. I don’t want to be reminded of that terrible turmoil that tore my country apart and left it broken since the defeat on April 30, 1975 – a date that we have all ceased to forget.
I played that song with so much excitement and bitterness. I was excited because I learned how to play the piano. I was bitter because my first song that was played with true passion was my last song.
All through senior year in high school I purposely drove back to that house to see if I can remember how his fingers hit the keys 11 years ago. To see if I can feel what he felt when he taught me how to play that song on the piano. But when I’m there, everything around me seems so uninviting. The past is gone now, and can never be relinquished. I wish I can ask him why he taught me that song. Why not teach me Mary Had a Little Lamb, or something different from my heritage just to hear him admit his feelings of our defeat and move on.
I can no longer remember how to play the piano. I’ve memorized the lyrics to that song, but I can no longer sing in perfect sync with the tune. I can no longer remember his fingers. It is as if I have never seen him played. I cannot remember the sounds reverberating through the emptiness in that autumn afternoon. I can only imagine. But when I close my eyes, I can’t see anything of that afternoon.
It’s October again.
And I remember the every feature of his countenance, but I can’t remember the sounds of his music. Why do I miss something I cannot even remember?…
It’s October again.