“Hello,” I stated as I hopped through the door to my grandparent’s home without even a knock. My grandma looked up from the book she was reading in her cozy corner chair, “Well, hello there”
“Where is grandpa?” I asked as I leaned down to brush my lips across the soft wrinkled cheek of my elderly grandma.
“Who’s there?” a familiar deep, rough voice sounded from the next room.
Smiling I skipped through the kitchen and into a long dimly lit room filled with bookcases, couches, a dining room table and a grand piano. My grandpa, across the room, was surrounded by music stands and piles of sheet music. His trusty violin was in one hand and the long wooden bow with the horse hair strings, that I was always warned never to touch, was in the other.
As I walked toward the figure across the room, I noticed his full head of snowy white hair glowing in the dark room.
Over his short stocky body hung a green dress shirt and a fuzzy cardigan sweater. He wore slacks held up awkwardly by a belt allowing his small potbelly to hang over it. His face hardly showed the years of worry and stress, but his white bushy eyebrows and growing second chin showed his old age. His smile greeted me.
As I drew close to him, his aging arms reached out and wrapped around my body pulling me into a warm loving hug.
As he released me from the hug, I said, “Grandpa, I learned a new song I want you to hear.”
I plopped down on the hard piano bench, and my fingers flowed over the keys. My foot pumped the cold pedal, and the room was magically filled with tones, one after another slowly warming the room.
Looking up at my grandfather’s soft, blue eyes I saw him crack a smile and nod with encouragement. Soon his violin found its way to its familiar spot between my grandpa’s shoulder and his unshaven chin. He swayed slightly as his arm moved the bow across the strings of the violin producing a harmony to the melody I was performing.
With a long last note, we both dropped our hands to our sides allowing the music, which had just filled the room with its thick tone, to abruptly end.
The room was left in a dead silence, frozen for a brief period of time, as we recovered from the intensity of the piece.
Bending down, my grandfather laid his precious violin in its velvet lined case and took the spot next to me on the piano bench. Claps of an unseen audience came from the kitchen, both our eyes looked toward the cheerful light and the sounds of my grandmother’s applause. As the claps faded away, his eyes turned toward mine.
Awaiting his comments, my eyes were open wide. Excitement had filled my body because of the piece I had just performed and the fact that my grandfather had joined in.
“Good. But, play the middle section slower.
Go ahead let me hear it,” the music teacher was in his element. He began to direct me through my piece, measure by measure. His hand flew, waving a pencil along the sheet music opened in front of my face. With every mark, my heart sunk a little lower.
Quickly I forgot the magic I had felt only minutes prior to the teaching session directed by my grandfather. Every piece had to be played to perfection.
“Okay, better, but let’s hear it again. 1, 2, 3.
My fingers lost their confidence. They began to miss the ivory key they were supposed to hit.
My wrists that once stood tall, now fell and so did my once happy tone. Why did he have to ruin the magic? Why couldn’t he just be happy with my playing instead of tearing it apart? I knew the answers. He wanted me to be the best I could. He had expectations and he knew I could meet them.
He pushed until people broke, but he had a way of getting the very best out of them.
My body began to quiver and water began to fill in the corners of my eyes. The notes in front of me became unclear and blurry as if raindrops were hitting the paper and smearing the ink together. I looked toward my grandpa, my eyes filled with a broken spirit and the unhappiness of not completely pleasing him.
After what seemed like hours of work, my grandfather smiled, “Okay now close your eyes. Think of the piece. See your fingers flowing over the keys. Think of the music, the tone, the rhythm.
Put those beautiful fingers on that piano and play that piece for me once more.”
I opened my eyes, full of determination I began again. This time the music had a rich sound, one that made you want to get up and dance. In seconds the happy tone which had disappeared returned, filling the room with beautiful music.
The tone was so thick that my grandma even appeared from the kitchen, making her way to the piano. My heart felt lighter as the frustration left me. My grandfather’s eyes were slightly closed as he listened intently to the music I was producing. Here and there my fingers would miss their destination, but the magic took care of the mistakes, holding the listener in a state of awe.
Then it was over. My grandfather’s arms reached around my small body and pulled me close. “That is the best I ever heard you play. You are getting so good.
” His lips puckered and he placed a gentle kiss on my cheek. My smile was from ear to ear. My heart was pounding and my fingers were quivering from the thrill of playing a piece so intensely.
Holding tightly to my hand, we left the piano bench and walked across the dark room into the light of the kitchen.
A loud ring broke the silence. “Hello,” my grandmother answered the phone. Looking to the clock on the wall I realized that it was almost dinnertime, and I knew my mom was calling wanting me to come home.
“Thanks for your help, grandpa.
” I stepped out of the warm house into the darkness and chill of the night. The evening breeze hit my small body, sending shivers up my back. I instantaneously missed the warm feeling of the house heated by the blazing kitchen stove. I hurried down the hill toward the warmth of my own house.
As I walked the short distance, my eyes rested on the branches of the many evergreen trees along the path. My mind focused on my time with my grandfather. Under the roughness of the outside layers there is such gentleness. Hearing only harsh words I think he is mean, but actually he wants me to be the best I can be.
His expectations are not unattainable, just high, and to reach them he pushes, but in the end the result is beautiful.
A smile formed on my face again, and the skip returned to my step. Opening the door to my house the bright cheery light hit my face, I gleefully walked over to my little upright piano. “Mom, listen to what grandpa did to my piece.”
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