Written by Yiqi Huang

Dear grandpa,

It’s weird that I’ve never written to you, but immediately thought of you when I came across this ‘letter-to-a-loved-one’ challenge. I can almost see what you’re doing now: taking a nap after lunch, telling grandma that you’d like to take down the rubbish but in fact, cycling through the city streets and stopping by some lottery points, bringing back something that’s not what grandma asked you to buy, missing dinner time again, and finally, bearing grandma’s scolding while giving her a warm foot bath before putting her to bed… These scenes keep iterating in my mind, that I’m surprised how vivid they are, and how much they remind me of home.

Yes, home, I associate it more with you and grandma, instead of mum and dad. After all, we spent a lot more time together. You’re not as careful as grandma, so I was allowed to try a lot of things at a young age, including peeling potatoes with a knife at the age of three, which unavoidably resulted in a cut on my thumb, grandma’s scolding you, and a scar I still carry on my left hand. I kind of like the scar now, for it always reminds me of this silly little story between us and a lot more alike, most of which involved a word called music.

You were the musician of our family, so you tried hard to teach me Er Hu and Chinese flute as soon as I could sit still, just as you did to mum when she was young. History repeated, I refused like my mum, before I broke your instruments. I always regretted it today that I can play neither, but thanks to your second try to put me at the piano, I’m able to explore the fantastic world of music. I can’t imagine how my life would be like without piano or your guidance in my music life. You’re the most loving grandpa but the strictest music coach. I remember sitting on the back of your bike and rushing to the music school with your completely nonsense song: I ride my bag and carry my horse, face the south and walk towards the north… Weeks after weeks, years after years. “A day without practice is manifest to yourself, two days to your teacher, three days to your audience”, you told me, and even though I didn’t choose piano as my career, I still feel the guilt whenever I can’t spare one hour a day on piano.

You didn’t seem to get older as I grew up, but unfortunately, your hearing has been deteriorating so you stopped playing music. I understand it but still wish from time to time that I had attended your performances, with your band, by the sea, how my mum described them to me. Even once would be enough. May I accompany your Er Hu or Chinese flute on my piano? I don’t know if your traditional band would like a Western instrument, but it seems trendy nowadays. You still stand by and listen to the piano whenever I practice at home. You said you liked Beethoven’s Pathetique when I played it. It was my exam piece with which I struggled the most, but it reminds me of what you’ve gone through, as by the time Beethoven composed it, he had just started to notice his hearing problems. It’s amazing how music connected me, you and an angry German gentleman who lived hundreds of years ago. Now I’m on a new piece composed by Schumann. He’s also German but has a different character. I will play it to you when I come home this summer and I hope you’ll enjoy it too.

I was also pleased that you never stopped exploring the real world when the music path was less accessible to you. At the age of 65, you suddenly decided that you’d like to see more of the world. Oh grandpa, a little man like you, who’s never been to an airport before and never learned any English word, would travel around the world, alone! You learned to use mobile phones, computers and also a camera, and since then we’ve always had souvenirs from different parts of the world during the summer and a lot of stories from you when you came back. Last year I invited you to my graduation ceremony in London, and you were even more energetic than my parents when you arrived. Have I told you how glad I am that you came? I was definitely proud of you and your adventures. I hope you feel the same for me too.

People, even mum, say that I’m more like you than my parents: happy, curious, adventurous, a bit lazy and careless, and fond of music. I take it as a compliment. I look forward to the next time I go home and play for you, and may you keep your good health and energy to continue exploring the world!


P.S. It’s Chinese New Year soon, so Happy New Year to everyone who’s reading this letter!