Those who were acquainted with my grandfather knew he was a hard person to deal with, and that he was even harder to please. He was demanding with himself and with others, and had a temper softened only, perhaps, by my grandmother. But those who knew him even better also recognized in him a person capable of rare moments of sensibility and good sense.
I remember that bench covered with tiles in the magic garden of his house. I remember to sit on his lap and, with him, look at those two trees. A plum tree and a pine tree. We used to sit in that bench very often. Sometimes cold, sometimes enjoying the cool shade of the trees on a hot summer afternoon. And we looked. We looked in the same direction, but we saw different things. Something called age, I happened to learn later. And what we saw changed from time to time. It changed with light, with temperature, with time, and with us. It changed throughout the day, throughout the year and over the years.
Two trees. Shady in summer and winter resistant. One of the trees would undress in winter, the other not. And I did not understand why the deciduous tree, decided to undress precisely when it was cooler. The other would not; she was evergreen, with leaves as needles, thin and stung, though it would lose them eventually, calmly, and throughout the year.
I remember another moment, some years later, when I lived in Berlin and he visited me. Sitting with him at that restaurant table, I felt closeness in the expression of his eyes, even difficult to explain.
Talking of those things in life that, because of their importance, one only talks about them in small, relaxed moments, my grandfather tells me, with that deep, calm voice:
I have never had that “me and my grandfather” kind of relationship, as most certainly did. But I shared important moments with him. Not many, but (or maybe because of that), very good.