I have a small story to share, if you want to pull up a chair and sit a while. It won't take long, but there is a campfire here, and I'll pass you a cup of hot chocolate if it pleases you. The neighbour brought fresh apples from his trees this week, and I made tarts. Help yourself.
My grandfather (top right) stands with his siblings and parents outside the castle that his father built for his mother upon coming to Canada. The "castle" was a grand house sporting a roof with faux turrets. More impressive than the house, were the grounds my great-grandmother kept. Secret garden rooms and hidden sculptures were found all over her yard, and I spent long days getting lost out there among the plants and wildlife, and protesting every call from my mother to return inside.
He loved to sing. He was part of a gentleman's choir for years, and when he was 90 he began performing solo in retirement and nursing homes to entertain "the old folks." His eyes and memory started to fade a bit (but only slightly) and so I spent some time tracking down a list of old songs he gave me, and I created a large-print song book for him to carry around so he might have a bit of backup if his mind lost a word or two of a favourite tune.
Few of his children inherited the musical gene, and even fewer still of his grandchildren. Many of us have wished that we carried even a small portion of his talent in us.
I don't know that I have a memory of my grandfather that doesn't include hearing him sing, or recite a funny poem or lyrics, or seeing him take up any item within his reach and try to make music appear from it.
I saw my grandfather, my father's father, the day before he died. He was 99, and only a few short months away from his 100th birthday. We had planned a big bash for him, as well as a family reunion, and he was very excited. But his body was failing. He was tired. My cousin and I sat with him that day, and he told us stories and sang for us, and I knew by his breath and manner that he was moving away from us. I called the family that night, aunts and cousins, and told them to come.
I didn't return the next day. I had my quiet moment with him, and told him the things I wanted to say, and thanked him, and kissed him, and knew we wouldn't meet again while I was in this body. I can't remember what I did the next day, but I received messages from family telling me how glad they were to have rushed to his side. He was delighted that day - his tiny apartment was brimming with people who had come to sit by his side and tell him stories and sing with him. My cousin told me that he kept asking "is everyone here for me?"
The man that wandered through his life with music on his lips and in his hands, sang to his family on the day he died. As people went home he grew quiet, and at last, with my aunt by his side, he drifted on the music he had given us, into the next world.
When it comes to making music, there is almost no talent in me. I tried out choir and band in high school, but my voice isn't much, and I grew frustrated with reading sheet music. The few instruments I tried I gave up on because my short fingers wouldn't cooperate with stretching out to hit a chord or a key. My hands are better suited as spades for the earth, than for traveling nimbly down a piano. Recently though, I picked up a pair of spoons. I was putting away the dishes, and I found myself wedging them between my fingers and trying to rattle them the way my grandfather did. It turns out that my chubby fingers are good for something - they held those spoons perfectly.
Perhaps there is a bit of his music in me after all.