The bell rang. Grandpa rose from his favorite chair and walked hurriedly out to the gate.
“”Be careful, Father. Just slow down, there’s no need to hurry,”” my mother warned him.
Sometimes it felt funny to see how she treated my grandfather. She acted like a protective mother to her 5-year-old son. She always kept an eye on him: on what he could eat and he could not, and his medication.
Grandpa suffered severe high blood pressure since the age of 38. Over four decades he had to take medicine every day. One pill per day.
To prevent further effects of high-blood-pressure syndrome, my late grandmother then put a strict diet into effect for him. It was almost like vegetarian diet; a lot of vegetables and very little meat, especially red meat.
I knew Grandpa disliked the diet. He once told me that he could hardly stand the diet because he was a meat lover. So one day he furtively went to a restaurant and ordered a double portion of satay kambing for himself.
“”It was the most delicious satay kambing I ever had in my life,”” he said one day with a boyish grin in his face. But it was also the last he ever had.
He was sick for three days; since then, Grandpa decided to overcome his passion for red meat.
“”Your grandma did this because she cared about me. That was a sign of love, wasn’t it? I’m respecting her by sticking to the diet she wants me to follow,”” he continued. I saw his eyes sparkle. At that moment I knew that that was the sparkle of his love for my grandmother.
After Grandma passed away 10 years ago, my mother took on her role for him.
Grandpa, 83 years old now, opened the wooden gate. And there he was, my grandfather’s regular visitor. He was a solderer. Here we called him tukang patri.
He carried a bamboo pole on his shoulder. The two ends of the pole each supported a sort of wooden box that hung from a rope. On those wooden boxes he placed his working apparatus: things that were weird to my eyes.
As usual, he placed himself near the gate. He pulled out his small wooden stool and sat on it. Siti, our maid, came out with pans in her hands. We used to call them “”Grandpa’s things””.
They were old, ugly pans that should have been dumped. But Grandpa bought them from a tukang loak — a vendor of used articles.
At first I couldn’t understand why he wanted to buy those old, ugly things. I thought it might be caused by his age. I heard that people who had reach their 70s and above often acted weirdly: It was a natural process of aging.
Those ancient, old-fashioned, ugly pans absolutely could not be used for cooking. They had holes in the bottom. Then I finally understood the reason he bought and kept all those things.
“”You know, nowadays tukang patri is a rare profession. It’s an old, traditional profession that is more and more being left by people who liked to think of themselves as modern,”” said Grandpa one day when I asked why he kept buying those used articles.
“”In the past two decades, I’ve only seen two tukang patri here. They were both old. It seems that young people don’t need this profession anymore.
“”I haven’t seen one since the first, 10 years ago. Maybe, he’s dead already. And him, he’s the second. One day he’ll be gone too. So, I think it’s nice if we could do something simple to support people within this profession,”” he explained.
I glanced at the tukang patri. He looked fragile: short and very skinny. He wore a straw hat. Wrinkles lined his sunburned face. Grandpa once told me the man was 60 years old, but he looked the same age as my grandfather. “”Maybe it’s because of his hard life. It’s not easy to become a tukang patri today. How many people still need his services?”” added Grandpa.
The tukang patri checked the pans; the holes to be patched. Then he started to work. He added some small pieces of wood to a sort of charcoal stove.
The stove was connected to a wheel with a crank. As he begun to crank the wheel, air blew through a tube and lit the fire up.
He put an iron bar with a wooden handle in the stove and waited until the stick was glowing. Then he prepared tiny pieces of alloy and melted them with a drop of quicksilver.
He took the mixture with the tip of the stick and started to solder the holes. He used another iron stick with rubber on the tip to smoothen the patches. Finally he applied a file to perfect his work.
I saw Grandpa enjoying that moment. Sitting on his wooden bench, Grandpa accompanied the tukang patri while he was working.
The two elderly men chatted; sometimes they both laughed. They seemed like a couple of old friends. The tukang patri apparently was not bothered at all, soldering and talking at the same time. He worked with great skill.
I was glad to see Grandpa having a good time like that. I thought he was lonely since Grandma passed away. His children and grandchildren were mostly busy with their own day-to-day activities.
So was I. Often I saw Grandpa talking to Goldy, our dog. I admitted that somehow there was a gap in our communication. Grandpa loved to talk about past times while me and my two brothers focused on modern-day thoughts.
The tukang patri finally finished his job. Grandpa gave him Rp 50,000 rupiah — Rp 30,000 rupiah for the job done on three pans, and Rp 20,000 extra for the tukang patri himself.
The skinny man thanked Grandpa over and over before he left. He looked so happy, and so did Grandpa. They said goodbye with smiles on their faces. Looking at them, I felt happy too.
It was almost six months since the tukang patri‘s last visit. Usually he came every month or so. Grandpa became rather worried about him and awaited his next visit.
“”Don’t worry, Grandpa. Maybe he is trying to sell his services in new areas now. He’ll return here,”” I said, trying to ease his worry.
Deep down, though, I wasn’t sure of what I’d said to Grandpa. I was afraid the man indeed had already gone forever. He looked so fragile; maybe his health was not that good. I felt a slight sadness slipping into my heart.
“”Maybe. I hope he’s just alright,”” he murmured. His eyes gazed somewhere into the distance. Was Grandpa now feeling that he might already have lost one of his friends?
But the skinny man never showed up again. One year had gone. My grandfather had also gone too. He passed away a month ago.
Now I was staring at Grandpa things: those old, ugly pans that should definitely have been dumped.
Several still had holes on the bottom. Maybe I should keep those things here for a while. Maybe I should wait for another tukang patri to patch those holes.
Satay kambing: small pieces of goat meat roasted on skewers. One portion of satay usually consists of 10 skewers of roasted meat.