Before church we stopped to see my grandmother, my father's mother. She lived in an apartment over what used to be my grandfather's medical practice, and what later became offices shared by my dad and my uncles. Grandma had wind chimes in her doorway that we rang incessantly to annoy her. Her house smelled like decades of deep fried cooking. In her dining room, she had a piano. I don't remember the first time, but I remember her sitting beside me on the piano bench. She would play a song, making me watch. Then she'd tell me, "Now you play it." And I did.
She passed away when I was ten, something that haunted me for many years after and in ways I didn't fully understand because I was a jerk of a teenager. But right around that time, my other grandmother, my mother's mother, bought a piano. This is the Grandma I was closest to, the woman I called "best friend" when I was little. The first phone number I learned. And when she bought her piano, I somehow scored an afternoon alone with her. She sat beside me on the piano bench and said, "Show me what you know."
I could play "Happy Birthday" and "Silver Bells" and pieces of other songs I'd memorized. Grandma quickly realized I wouldn't do well reading the music, even though I was able to. Instead, she did what my other grandmother did. She played me the melody and let me watch. And then I played it.
I spent a lot of time at her house, before and after that day, but once she had the piano that was pretty much all I wanted to do. At family dinners, sports would be on and someone would shout for me to stop playing, or my brother and sister begged for a turn, but my grandparents both encouraged me to keep playing. "I like it," my grandpa would say, and chuckle at those who were annoyed. "Play me 'Silent Night'," Grandma would call from the kitchen.
"Some day, it can be your piano. You were meant to have a piano, Lovey."
Today is that day.
After many months of waiting, we are moved into a beautiful new house. What many people don't know is that the entire floorplan of the house was designed around this piano. Joe was only able to convince me--at first--to leave our old house by pointing out that it had no real place for Grandma's piano.
When I walked in after work and saw the moving men assembling it, I cannot explain what happened to my heart. It broke and filled up all at once. When I saw the books my mother was careful to send along with it...books and books of music filled with Grandma's notations, I knew I would cry and had to put them away before I scared my kids.
And then this happened.
This little boy who used to climb in her lap just like I did. This little boy that, impossible as it is to really believe, a psychic told me Grandma watches over special. This little boy who has my hands, complete with fingers that bend back at the ends in a way just right for piano keys. He doesn't have it yet, but he will. I think they all will.
Because when we play, Grandma and Grandpa still hear us. I know they do. And I keep them close so I remember what it was like when I'd play a new song and turn to see if anyone noticed, and there they'd be, smiling at me like I'd just hung the moon.
I miss you both, and I'm glad you're together again. I'm grateful for over thirty-five years with you. I'm grateful you were strong, and danced at my wedding, and knew all three of my children.
I'm grateful for the music you left me.