Do you know the sounds of silence and is there really such a thing?
Most of you don't know that my Grandparents mostly raised me, and that I was brought up in the old way working my back to the bone. But my Grandparents taught me many things that they thought were important (and they were right) They taught me to be intolerant of stupidity and ignorance. Now let me explain that last sentence, everyone is ignorant of many things no one has total knowledge. But I was taught that people who when given the chance and ability to learn and then choose not to, are stupid and are not to be tolerated, they are simply a hindrance to all of those around them. Now I'm 56 years old and it is the anniversary of the death of my Granddad, this has gotten me thinking of some of the things that he taught me.
Now my Granddad was an interesting man, firstly as a young man he served in the German army during world war one, then later served as an officer in the Waffen SS Armored Corps for the entire Second World War. The things that man must have seen and yet it never hardened him, or at least he never once let on that it had. He remained up until the time of his death the kindest, gentlest and most sensitive human that I have ever known.
After the war my Granddad moved with his wife and sons to Canada, they moved with what they could carry or wear and nothing else. Some of you might know that my Granddad was a machinist and a damn good one at that as were his sons. This was one of the reasons that they were required to leave Germany and move to Canada as it was deemed that Germany was not to rebuild too quickly or easily. Ergo the best German machinists had to go, as anyone worth his or her salt knows that Machinists are the backbone or any industrialized nation.
Upon reaching Canada he was given plot of land of some 240 acres of swamp and the choice of becoming a farmer or becoming a farmer. Another insult, He chose the later and the former but also became a blacksmith. Now even when I was a child this half horse Jew town was something right out of a cheap sort of western movie. Dirt streets, wooden sidewalks with rats the size of dash hounds living underneath, ( a lot of the rats had big hooked noses and I always thought they didn't interbreed) two livery stables but no Blacksmith shop.
Working as blacksmiths my granddad and my uncles all the while sort of farming the swamp managed to parlay that which they had into owning virtually all of the best land surrounding the town. They became big farmers. All the while the Blacksmith shop continued to grow into a full fledged machine shop as horses and buggies were on their way out.
Even working insane hours in the shop he never gave up the farm, he started up a butcher shop to supply meat to the town, a small dairy for fresh milk. cream and butter mostly for the family, but it grew to insane proportions.
As well he started up a small apiary for honey, the bees were his pride and joy, he always called them his little buggers. Besides clover would grow well in the swampy land and made for both good honey and feed for the dairy cattle. The man never once missed a beat.
However this post is not so much about my grandfather as it is about what he taught me.
First of all he taught me to never let some one else do for you that which you can do for yourself, that has always been very helpful. He also taught me how to shoot and never waste a bullet. I’m not to sure if that was such a good thing as when I joined the US army in 1968 at the tender age of 17 they saw what I could do and put me through Special Forces Sniper training. In the years from the latter part of 1968-to the beginning of 1971 I harmed a lot of people that had never harmed me, they simply wanted their own country back.. I don't think my Grandfather approved of what I had done but at least he never mentioned it other than to say that we all have to live with out own demons. It is a part of my life that I wish I could undo, alas I cannot.
More importantly He also taught me how to listen to the world, and I don't mean cars and radios and such, I mean the real world and nature. I remember one day while were in the bush waiting for a tagged bee to return so that we could establish a bee line to the hive in order that we could collect the Queen and her minions and take them home to our apiary. As we were sitting on a stump my Granddad asked me what I could hear? I listened and heard nothing and told him as much, I'll never forget the look of disappointment in his eyes,
When he asked me "you mean you hear nothing at all?” and I had to admit I heard nothing after all we were alone in the forest what was there to hear? He then put his hand on my shoulder and said you mean you can't hear the wind whispering though the trees, you can't hear the love songs of the crickets and the buzzing of the bee's or the cymbal of sun sound pinging off of that rock? You mean you can't hear your Grandmother as she worries about you?
He then said my good god boy there's a whole symphony out there playing just for you and you won't open your ears to hear it. Now I was 7 years old at the time and didn't really understand what he was trying to tell me.
It was the next year when he sent me out into the bush to find a new hive as we had lost one of ours . Now just sitting there with my compass and stopwatch waiting for the third bee I had tagged to return so that I could triangulate were the hive was, something strange happened.
My ears seemed to open up and what I had thought to be silence was absolutely deafening. All I could hear was the breeze rustling through the leaves, the sounds of insects going about their daily business, the birds calling to one another, the sun bouncing off of the leaves and rocks and yes I could hear my Grandmother worrying about me. I knew that I must get home soon.
Later that afternoon I told my Granddad what had happened to me and that now I knew what he had meant. The look of joy on his face cannot be described, he then took my hand and shook it as he would shake the hand of an adult and said “welcome this place you will never be alone again, you have finally woken from a long sleep”.
What sleep I asked? He said the “sleep of ignorance” he said “the music was always playing for you but you chose not to listen, now go tell your Grandmother she has been waiting along time for you to awaken”.
The thing about all of this is that he was right I have never really been alone since, and for that I say Thank You Grandfather and I miss your wisdom.
As always your Grandson
p.s. My Grandfather died at an age of 104 years and worked untill he was 98.