Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Pappa's Words




Pappa’s Words
By Uzair Parker



The words burst forth on my fourth birthday, veneering outwards ever since, a voracious volcano of verbs and adjectives, like too many popcorn kernels in a tiny pot.

They seemed to form from within the deep recesses of my untamed imagination, a plethora of playful pronouns and a mountain of metaphors. They seeped through the pores of my being, saturating me as they traipsed through the ballrooms of my mind in an exhilaration of whimsical revelry. 

It was as if the words had been given a life of their own - I could see them, touch them and even taste them. The icy sharpness of irony, the aromatic richness of rhetoric, the crunchy texture of conjunction and the tingling after taste of tense - all of these combined in a decadent swirl of perpetual poetry. And I, Oh Glory, I was the master. I was the creator. 

At seven I found the dictums of prescribed literature deplorable. How could Kathy not burst into a fit of giggles every time she was told to “See Mark jump”? And how dare they name the poor dog Socks? No, these people needed to slapped by that fish-toting Gaul from Asterix or sworn at by Captain Haddock from Tintin.
Asterix and Tintin. Now, that was literature. What, with their quirky references, Latin phrases and misplaced puns. I consumed as much words as I expelled back then and not all from speech bubbles and comic books. I read the literary greats: Treasure Island, Moby Dick and Tom Sawyer. I read Paddington the Bear, the Enid Blyton stories and the Roald Dhal range. But mostly, rather secretively, I read comic books.

At nine, I decided to unveil my 'scribbled down A5 hardcover masterpiece' to the world. This was my shining moment and I gloated, basking in my own conceitedness.

Pappa was the first to drop the c-word, the one word all writers loathe: criticism.

"It’s very good but you really should dot your I's and cross your T's"

And so I did because Pappa epitomized the very essence of storytelling. A stalwart of the English language, my grandfather’s life was a canvas of swashbuckling tales, filled with daring adventures. He hadn’t just imagined his words. He had lived them. He was the true Master of Words. And so, when he criticized, I listened.

“Go easy on the alliteration,” he said, “Too much of it gives me the hiccups.”

As the years progressed the words took on new forms, and deeper meanings. Now they spoke of Elves and lost lands, of battles and kings and sparkly things. I more than often found myself in the midst of a fascinating daydream.

“Daydreaming?” Pappa would ask bemused, “Which day are you dreaming about?”
As the words changed, Pappa changed along with them. At first he had been my companion in the sea of restless vocabulary: The Huckleberry Finn to my Tom Sawyer, the Long John Silver to my Jim Hawkins and the Obelix to my Asterix. Now he seemed less of a likely assistant in my assailment of words and more of a guiding mentor. He had become more like Gandalf, Merlin and Obi Wan.
The words followed me to high school where they developed a rather startling complex. They hid behind shyness, zits and facial hair and refused to behave whenever I needed them to. They would issue from my throat in a resounding cross between a croak and a squeak, always at the most awkward of times. 

The bullies didn’t care much for words. They preferred speaking from their fists. I raged in those first few months, all bloody nosed and puffy eyed. I raged at the words that refused to come when needed, I raged at idiocy of raging at all, as if these hormonal bursts of anger were somehow waylaying the words into a stupor. Perhaps this was why boxers spoke in slurred speech. Their words were all dented.

But bullies needed words too; they needed it to retain their bully-ish identity without which they would be forced to leave school. They came to me when they needed words. It was never a request, just an understanding that each essay would ensure my dignity for one more day. I didn’t mind writing them. In fact, I sadistically revelled in the silent knowledge that they would never master the words, that their words would ever only suffice them a C-pass. Sometimes I tweaked their words with subtle hints and risqué remarks but never enough to raise the bar and just enough to spare them raising their fists. 

I saw less of Pappa back then but when I visited he inspired as ever before. He had become the embodiment of wisdom: my personal Descartes, my Yoda. 
Sadly, some of his words were leaving him. He forgot day-to-day things, names, places and even people. To make up for his lost words, I gave him some of my own to read.

“It’s good,” he said, “but why all the worries about the future? Knowing why is so much better than knowing when”.

Two years after my graduation from University and a few months before I would bind my words in marriage with another like-minded and beautiful soul, Pappa fell ill. 

Eventually, his words left him.

The day he died was the day my words failed me. As we laid him to rest, they passed through me and I envisioned them like fallen leaves in the wind, gathering momentum and forming the perfect pattern, the perfect phrase. But the perfect phrase never came and the words, when eventually they settled, were swept away by an onslaught of tears and were washed into the crevices of bittersweet nostalgia.

I shut my eyes and stared into the inner fabric of my soul, where some words still traipsed in a whimsical revelry to an unheard melody. I called on them for an ending, something with which to honour that wonderful and inspiring man. 

But they simply smiled back at me with Pappa’s kind and twinkling eyes and reminded me to go easy on the alliteration. They still gave him hiccups.

3 comments:

  1. Beautifully written piece! I look forward to the next post :)

    https://thelittleblogofstuff.wordpress.com/

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  2. Thank you for your input. I will be posting my next piece soon :-)

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  3. Beautiful! Pappa would be proud :D I look forward to reading more.

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