Yesterday. It’s where this post begins and it would have been my Dad’s 95th birthday. Known as “the Major” (he retired from the Army as a Major) to those closest to the family, he was a man of many gifts. The gift box I possess from all that he gave me, is a neverending overflow and there is nary the space here to talk about all of them.
Music is on the top 5 list of most treasured of gifts. I grew up listening to my Dad play piano. Our piano was downstairs in the finished basement of our 1950’s? raised ranch. An old upright, it held all the magic a girl could ever want. As was his habit during the week, the Major would come home from work, loosen the ole tie and settle in for a scotch and water and a few snicky snacks – that’s Kathleen code for cheese and crackers. Very often it was cheese out of a jar. Old English (no silly not the cologne!). Do you know they still make this cheese?!
After reading the paper and relaxing (“chilling”, the kids might say today), my Dad would head down to the basement to play the piano. As soon as he sat down on the chair (part of an old dining room set) he “went away”. Upstairs we (my Mom and I) often sensed where he went by what he was playing. Let me explain: my Dad had a natural gift for playing the piano. By ear as they say. His repetoire often included the classics of his day which is to say the 40’s and 50’s ( I never knew when he slipped in his originals). Sometimes the music was melancholy other times joyful and yet at other times simply playful.
I often would go downstairs to listen and watch. My Dad had a particular look when he was playing that is difficult to describe – slight hunch to the shoulders, eyes appearing to look down at the keyboard but it wasn’t a keyboard he was seeing. You could almost see time suspended. Anyway, I think my Dad really enjoyed having an audience, even an audience of one. (Of course upstairs, putzing around was my Mom, his biggest fan who made the audience two).
I think there were times my Dad longed for the days where he was the entertainment at parties and various functions (military and non-military). He loved to play piano and loved that people loved that he could sit down and simply play. Play what he thought they would like, play their requests or simply play what might come to him at that very moment. I think the only time my Dad was really spontaneous was when he was sitting in front of a piano.
I don’t know when it started, I was pretty young but there was one piece of music my Dad loved to play for me. It didn’t matter if I was downstairs listening beside him, (that was preferred) or whether I was upstairs helping my Mom get dinner ready. He knew I loved hearing it, he loved playing it and to this day I cannot but smile and be thankful for the gift of his special, unique version of the March of the Wooden Soldiers, somtimes called March of the Toy Soldiers. Thank you Dad, I was listening to you play for me all of the day that would have been your 95th birthday.
[Obviously there is no YouTube vid on the planet of your version but let me post a little something for you. Here’s a song gift, me to you… (“Yeah, I do know your version was better LOL”)