Four in the picture. Only three were mature. But, who’s counting, anyway?
This is a famous trio on my left and right. No, .. not the Three Musketeers, Stooges, Marx Brothers, Bee Gees, or the Kingston Trio. The three surrounding this handsome gent are the only grandparents I ever knew. My other grandfather passed away shortly after I was born, and it’s his wife – my grandmother standing on the far right in the picture – who would be 113 today. Granted, that is an age not attained by many in today’s world. She died in 1999, at the age of 92, not quite seeing the turn of a century, but seeing a lot in her lifetime.
1770. 136 years before my grandmother was born. Bonn, Germany. Ludwig van Beethoven was baptized on December 17th. Now, I know this is one day off from today, December 16th. Historians are unsure as to the exact day of his birth, but it is presumed he was born the day before his baptism.
Why do I mention this?
We are a musical family. The “piano” line is direct from grandma-to mom-to me. This is not to exclude sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, dads, etc… AND it is not to assume a direct line back to the Master himself (I can, however, trace a teaching/pedagogical line from grandma back to Liszt from her instructor when she studied in Chicago). Heck, MY birthday is tied in with World War 2, so the “causation doesn’t equal correlation” fallacy chain, musically, is good only so far…
I mention Beethoven because it is a link to a memory. Today is a simple memory. Today is a day to celebrate the birthday of a lady who started it all – or, at the very least, kept it going. “It” being a love of music passed to her from her ancestors.
Her mom, my great-grandmother Ekas, I knew. A spirited little lady, she loved her card games. I didn’t know her as a musician as much as I remember her as a knitter, baker, and fierce pinochle player. I do know she – and her family – were singers. Not professional by trade, but singers in the home. Female chanters around the house. Carry-a -tuners. When we visited infrequently (made the trek west), the smell of cooking was always accompanied by a whistling tune of some origin. A female choir of voices.
My grandfather I didn’t know fiddled a tune in a local dance band according to family lore. I have yet to see pictures or hear recordings of such to validate any stories I’ve heard over the years. That said, I have no reason to believe this isn’t true. No reasonable person would make up a story such as that. I can see a fabled tale of gangsters, whiskey rebellions, and international crime … but, local fiddler dance band shenanigans?
Come to think of it, there were very few men around. Hmmmm. I wonder where they were? Either death came early voluntarily, or in an untimely…. well, suffice to say I shouldn’t speculate. I do know they, the men, worked hard in the steel mills of Western Pa. during a time when smoke billowed and towered above the mighty three rivers. I do believe the local watering holes sustained the sanity of those men and THAT’S why I, the underaged neophytic pre-teen, never saw the likes of them.
Her daughter, my grandma, was a lover of crosswords, Alex Trebek, pinochle (of course), Diane Bish, the organ, VW Beetles, Pittsburgh, her two daughters, Mrs. Cramer, her neighbors and friends she eventually got to know in Hollidaysburg, and her family. As her needs changed, it was a necessary move from Pittsburgh to Hollidaysburg. Closer to mom, medical care, opportunities for growth within the elderly communities, etc…
A trio of trios. Grandma, mom, and I sat together many times behind the 88 keys: Me – lower third, bass; mom – middle third, tenor / alto; grandma – upper third soprano primo. Thirty fingers, six hands, three players playing. The music rang (not always accurately). We had so much fun. You wouldn’t think it possible, but it was. Possible because we made it so.
“Life is possible because we make it so”. Probably this is the birthday lesson grandma gave me along with the perennial, “Life is like a piano…” sign predominantly displayed on her Yamaha grand: “…What you get out of it depends on how you play it.”
Mom isn’t here anymore. Neither is grandma. The entire trio above has been gone for a while now. Pap-pap was the most recent to pass away in 2010 … New Year’s Day.
Beethoven died March 26th, 1827. Coincidentally, that date is only one day before my mom’s birthday … well, his ending a hundred or so years before her beginning, of course. But, who’s counting, anyway?
Happy 113th, Grandma!! Miss You!… 92 was a long life with no regrets. You gave us a great mom, a wonderful aunt, and plenty of happy memories along the way.
Beethoven would be proud to share this “Ode to Joyous” day with you, I’m sure.