Friday, May 3, 2013

The Piano Story: Grandma's Secret Music

This Roland digital piano was a mainstay for me through graduate school at Wichita State University. It had fantastic touch and sampling sounds, and was a delight to the students that came to me as well with its assortment of instruments and pop rhythms. While it was never an adequate replacement for an acoustic, it was a convenient alternative that didn't keep my grandmother, also my roommate, awake until 2:00 a.m., which was often when I put in valuable practice hours."Oh, I'm awake anyway," she would wave me off as I apologized for the noise. 

Pics taken recently to aid in selling the piano before we return to Germany.

Quite unintentionally, the piano became a window for me to glimpse her inner world. A few months after the instrument arrived in her home, I began to notice small things that were different than I had left them: the volume would be higher, a score had been moved or the bench was tucked in. Sometimes it was left on, and once I thought I heard it being closed as I opened the door. 

"Grandma, are you playing my piano?" I asked her one day. 

"Yes. I play sometimes," her eyes twinkling. 

"Would you play for me?" 

Looking down, she replied, "We'll see." 

Eleven years later, I have still never heard her play. She asked my mom and dad to come pick it up a few years ago while we were still in Germany. "I can't play it anymore," she explained sadly, "my arthritis hurts me too bad." 

Grandma this March. She takes fantastic pictures, doesn't she?

Visiting her this semester, I asked if she remembered what songs she liked to play. "Oh yes!" And she began to hum and play her fingers in the air, swaying from side to side in her chair. Even in the absence of a piano, she's still playing.

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