GRANDFATHER’S STORY

Susan Teubner-Rhodes '08

Little girl, with long, sleek raven-hair dancing behind her, bounding from foot to foot on tiptoe, laughing through her bright mouth, dark eyes, dancing hair, limber legs, and tiny toes, creeps up to her grandfather’s knees. Wise eyes so deprived of youth, drink in the life and love that have painted her face so exquisitely. Suddenly thirsting for energy, Grandfather becomes mesmerized, unable to release her from his gaze until he is drunk with memory. His heart is stricken with nostalgia for the richness of a life with potential yet untapped. But his granddaughter has reminded him of happiness, passion and hope, and for this he is grateful.

“How can I, an old man, no longer able to revel in the charms of life, give something to beautiful Youth, who has everything? She is the sun, giving warmth and light to all, shining even behind rain clouds, but never desiring anything in return.” Despite perfect happiness radiating from her entire being, the little girl leans on the respected, comforting knees, querying “Tell me a tale, Grandfather?” After all, little girls, who are better acquainted with life than grown-ups, remain grievously unaware of their knowledge and are curious about what age can teach them. “How do I share wisdom with the child, while keeping her alive?”, Grandfather ponders. For she kneels before him, blooming all over with brilliant lotus flowers, seemingly strong and healthy, but waiting to break into fragile petals at the first sign of wind, or to grow old and wilt away. Suddenly, the words burst forth, launching themselves from the depths of some unknown well within him, bubbling up so rapidly that he was unsure of what his next word would be before it came pouring forth, forming the pool of his story. Though his soul was energized in giving birth to the pool, the pool itself remains calm with all the wisdom of age, betraying the conquered tempests of the old man’s former days. The pool is well formed, a flawless circle, with no clear beginning or end, simply infinite droplets of wisdom.

“A little girl sits in the shallow waters of the sea. Her position is pensive-her legs are crossed, her wrists rest placidly on her knees. Gentle waves rock her from side to side and content, she lets them. She relaxes herself, passively finding the rhythm created for her by the surrounding world. Her senses are satiated, perhaps even pleased, by the light pressure of the warm waves that cleanse her skin, purify her head, and pacify her heart. Occasionally a lotus flower may drift by in fullness, but the girl does not capture it, she allows it to follow its own path. In this way, the girl grows, letting the sea provide her with a way, until finally, after endless moments of content, she chooses to release her soul to chase after the lotus flower and watches as it follows the path, disappearing into the nothingness past the horizon.

“All this while, there is a different little girl in the sea, who finds her self in the same safe harbor of shallow waters. This girl hears the harmony of the waves in the melody of the sea and feels discontent, for deep inside herself she hears a different song, and she desires to make music of her own. Without knowing how, she begins to swim against the tide, waves striking her without mercy. There is no shelter, no protection from the naked exposure to the world. Yet, through her vulnerability, there flows a warmer current, pulling her through the water towards the distant unknown, sheltering her from the dark skies. Though the distance never gets closer, the current guides her, revitalizing her when it seems easier to succumb to the will of the ocean, to be ravished and discarded. All at once, the sea is smooth and the girl finds herself in the heart of the warmth, which she swallows as it overwhelms her. Suddenly she knows her dreams, her strength, herself. Her veins throb with the newfound wisdom that courses through her body. Bliss, ecstasy, euphoria. Rage, desire, furor. All is feeling, sense without reason. She has found light; she has lived life. Though her lotus, when extinguished, is naught but ashes, she has burned-fire, once started must induce change that will outlast satisfied stagnancy. Never content, she was still intimate with the world and refused to give up-and in return it loved her, not as a mother loves her daughter, but as a man loves a woman, passionately and without the boundaries of gentleness. The world gives the girl, nay, the woman, a gift that can only be born of such a love-she has truth.”

Through the shadow of long lashes, big eyes inquire “Grandfather, which girl am I?” Grandfather smiles gently, replies “That is not my knowledge, and if it was, I still would not tell my Lotus.”