Many of you have read posts here about my maternal grandparents in the past. You might remember how, three-and-a-half years ago, my cousin and I traveled to Massachusetts and spent Spring Break “hoeing out” the large old house that my grandparents had lived in for 50 years. And perhaps you recall that just a year later I dropped everything to be with them when my grandfather had a stroke, and one year after that my mom and I brought the boys there to visit. Then, last October, I spent most of a week there when my grandmother was in the hospital and doing poorly. They both survived those illnesses, but sadly, my grandfather passed away in January of this year. Some of you read my post about that visit (I was there when he died) and maybe the tribute I wrote to him and attempted to read at his funeral (thanks for stepping in, Matt).
Obviously, my grandparents have meant the world to me.
Just two weeks ago, my 89-year old Grandma D.B. (short for Doris Bird, how awesome is that?) left her apartment in Springfield, Mass., the town where she’d lived for more than 50 years, and moved to California. To me, this was a stunning act of bravery. You have to realize that not only had my grandmother never lived outside of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, but she is legally blind. She knew her way around her hometown so well that she could continue to give me driving directions, unseeing. “Honey, at the top of this hill, you’ll see a white picket fence. And there’s an Italian restaurant across the street? Take a left there.” She is also extremely attached to a great many family members and those of her friends who are still alive. Add to this the fact that my grandfather, her husband of over 60 years, was recently buried there in town, and I honestly don’t know how she did it. But she did. And so there she is in California, soaking up the warm sun and taking tai chi. (I kid you not.)
Although my grandparents were determined to take their upright piano with them to the independent living apartment a few years ago, the new smaller assisted living apartment in California could not accommodate it. And so, as I had mentioned a few years ago that I would love to have the piano should it ever become available, it came to me. The piano arrived this week along with a few sets of towels and a huge box of my grandparents’ beautiful china.
I sat down at the piano last night for the first time and automatically plunked out the “Do-Re-Mi” song from The Sound of Music, which is the only song I know how to play on a piano, thanks to my father sitting down with me at this very piano and teaching me when I was probably about Baxter’s age. There is a big scratch on the piano bench that I made as a small child; a few years back my grandmother found my father’s letter of apology and offer to fix it for them. One box that the movers carried in on Monday held the contents of the piano bench itself. There are ancient books of music, the most contemporary I found being the piano music to Godspell. I found pages from a notebook, a teacher’s scribblings to a student (my aunt?) instructing what to practice that week, and a birthday card my grandfather had given my grandmother. It’s hard to tell if the card is 10 years old or was perhaps the last one he signed for her, but I will send it to her. The piano bench, in and of itself, is a treasure waiting to be discovered.
Tonight as I pulled into the driveway behind my condo building after work, I heard the plink-plink-plink of the piano keys coming through my house. Baxter’s experiments sounded much like my own at his age. I’ll have to teach him “Do-Re-Mi”. Perhaps some of us will take piano lessons. Or maybe I’ll just look at the photo of my grandparents I placed on top of the piano the minute it arrived, trace my finger on the scratch, and remember. Right now, that seems good enough.
What a tremendous gift.