I sit by the barn, and the old man below competes with the sun—who will finish his daily troubles first. A iong shadow from the hill is already licking his left leg, but his right is still walking along a sunny strip. The sharp scythe whistles—so impatient is the old one to reap the last handful and finally rest. And the shade has reached the old man’s knees, then suddenly jumped to his waist and crawled up his chest.
I rose from my place and stood on tiptoe.
“Ivanko!” Grandfather’s voice carries up to me. He is standing up to his neck in shadows and wiping the scythe with a wisp of hay. “You hear me, Ivanko?”
“No, I don’t,” I scream, folding my hands into a boat around my mouth.
“Then why do you answer, you sluggard?” — Grandfather’s voice is gentle, and I know he’s not cross at me at all. “Bring the tobacco pouch, the mosquitoes’ll eat me alive.”
Naturally, Grandfather is only scaring me. The mosquitoes will never eat him up, ’cause he’s very big and a hundred times stronger than all the mosquitoes who live on our mud-hole. But I enjoy doing Grandfather a good turn.
I run headlong across the flower bed to Grandfather’s coat, pull the tobacco pouch out of the pocket, run out onto the hayfield, and loping through the sheaves of hay, I hurry towards Grandfather.
“Don’t cut your feet,” I hear his instructions.
“You’re tearing along like a frightened hare.”
“Oh? Do frightened hares run quickly?”
“Sure they run quickly.”
“So quickly that even you couldn’t catch up?”
“Don’t know. Haven’t tried.”
“And why haven’t you tried?”
The old man licks the cigarette, and smiles craftily under his moustache.
“ ’Cause they don’t sign in workdays for it.”
“And if they did?”
“Still wouldn’t try. I don’t like doing useless work.”
The answer doesn’t suit me, and I spill out a bunch of questions, as if from a bag, before the old one.
“Hey, hey,” his bitten-up lips laugh. “Better take the scythe and carry it to the barn.”
We walk through the hayfield, and the sky is darkening above us, and the ground is sounding a thousand tunes, and I listen. I listen to the sky, and listen to the ground, and listen to Grandfather’s talk. And some sort of invisible
power flows into my heart that will tie me to this ground, to the quiet singing, talk.
…The denser the hoar-frost that fell on Grandfathers head, the more he loved me, and the more generously he
opened the treasury of his soul. He grew old before my eyes, and it seemed to him that his strength, and even his very life flowed over into me, for the old man had nо sons—plagues and bullets had harvested them.
“My little pug-nosed dear,” Grandfather would whisper when I fell asleep beneath the music of his words. They were very nice words, for ugly ones he never spoke to me.
I often insulted and hurt Grandfather with my obtuseness and cruel, childish egoism. But the old forgave me magnanimously, as great people forgive. And Granfather was great in his simplicity and in that he didn’t beg of
life more than he deserved.
Grandfather liked to read history and geography, and he liked Shevchenko and Gorki, because Shevchenko was
supposedly a peasant writer and Gorki — urban.
“Truth like theirs is not to be found with anyone else. Others are smart too, but not as smart. It’s not a peasant’s, or worker’s mind they have. If I haven’t understood them, then ask their forgiveness for me when you grow up.”
Forgive him, Count Tolstoy and Anton Chekhov, don’t take offense at him, mighty Franko and subtle Lesia don’t be angry, Oleksander Blok, Volodymyr Maiakovsky, and Oleksander Dovzhenko. And many more others. And those who saw how he pulled the food away from his own mouth, having given up his last grain for the front, how he fed his grandchildren with one workday’s three hundred grams of bread—those who saw this and kept silent or chirped away in rhyme about romance, let them go to his grave themselves and beg his forgiveness. They grasped neither his strength nor his beauty, nor his work. And if he does not forgive them, then let them burn their bocks and take hold of some other work, so that their old age is not squalid.
…I was in the seventh grade then. It was nine kilometers to school. For my fourteen years of age this wasn’t
On Sunday Grandfather read all day. Geography perhaps.
“Ivan, go chop some firewood,” said Mother.
“ ’Cause I can’t any more,” uttered Grandfather.
“You only read books.”
“Don’t babble Ivan,” thundered Mother, “agile only with the tongue.”
I hacked away at the green sallow wood near the woodshed. Grandfather walked past me to the barn. In his hand there swung a rigid hempen cord. I hacked away at the sallow and it was quiet in the barn.
Then suddenly it was as if someone had struck my heart with the butt-end of an axe. I threw the hatchet into the snow and dashed for the barn.
“Gra — and — Pa — pa!”
He was standing and making a mixture for the cow.
And from the manger Lyska, tethered with the rigid cord greedily traced his every move. Grandfather glanced at
me and, seeing fear on my face, himself became alarmed.
“What’s the matter with you, Ivan?”
“You went with a cord and I thought…” I fell to his ancient sheepskin coat and cried like a baby and begged
In the evening Grandfather said:
“Hanna, Ivan won’t go to school tomorrow.”
“If I said so, it’s necessary.”
“All right, Ivanko won’t go,” Mother shrugged her shoulders.
But that was no whimsy. On Monday Grandfather was gone. Grim and excellent, he lay in the casket on the antiquated oak bench. And outside the sun shone, the snow creaked, and the roosters crowed to hail the thaw.
I love no one as much as grandfathers. They are a living wisdom, an unwritten history of our nation. On their bent backs they carry so much beauty and subtlety that anyone could be jealous.
And when I see a whiteheaded ancestor of mine on the bus with a bundle of buns, I somehow think: He’ll come into his house in a moment, pull out his unclever present and will tell his Ivanko:
“Look what I brought from the hare…”
He’ll seat his little dark or fair dear on his lap, and it, with gaping mouth, will listen to his simple-hearted
narratives, in which reality and fantasy intertwine. And someday without fail his grandfather’s beauty will awaken
in his soul, and his grandfather’s wisdom and his grandfather’s talk will nurture him.
Перекладач: Andriy M. Freishyn-Chirovsky
Оригінал: Дума про діда