Firsts


A death is followed by the year of firsts. The first Easter, first Thanksgiving, first Christmas, first birthday, etc., each sadly marked by the loved one’s absence.

This week, I had the honor of accompanying a cracker-jack trumpet player in a concerto competition. We performed the 1st movement of the Hummel concerto, which lasts approximately 9 minutes. Written in 1803 for trumpet virtuoso Anton Weidinger, it is a tour de force.  I was honored to be asked and determined to learn the score in the short week allotted for the task. (Soloists, procure your accompanists early!) I was also thrilled to find that my right hand had recovered enough to handle the task.  I fell at the gym a few months ago and dislocated the knuckle in my right fifth finger.

The big night arrived rather quickly. The soloist and I met in the practice rooms to warm up. And reality smacked me. I couldn’t call Daddy.

Cell phones are wonderful. For years, I have carried my cell phone into recital warm-ups, called my father, and placed the phone on a chair so that he could listen.  The choir at the high school where I work has sung “Happy Birthday” to him via cell phone for the past three years. And when the high school band practiced for their homecoming parade by marching through our neighborhood, I stood on the front porch with the phone so that he could enjoy the rehearsal. Anyone who saw me must have thought I was nuts. I didn’t care. Daddy loved music. He played the trumpet in the band during high school and college. His old trumpet sits beneath my piano in its red-velet-lined case.

I usually accompany singers, so working with a trumpeter is a treat. She’s quite talented. Last year, as a high school junior, she earned a perfect score at solo and ensemble competition. Daddy would have gotten a real kick out of hearing her play.

My father died on July 4. The ravages of multiple sclerosis finally took their toll. He had long ago lost the coordination and lung power needed to play his beloved instrument, but he never lost the joy of seeing others perform. Of watching children and teens discover and develop their talent.  He always told me that he didn’t play very well, that even in high school he thought his coordination somewhat lacking. His classmates tell me, “Your daddy could really blow that trumpet.”  My father was born on Veteran’s Day and died on Independence Day; he loved holiday parades.

And so I went through warm-ups with no cell phone and a knot in my stomach, experiencing a first I was not prepared for. But I was wearing Daddy’s watch.  It is bit large for my wrist, clearly a man’s watch. No matter.  The weight does not bother me; it is like having my father hold my hand.

The performance went very well. The trumpet’s rough spots smoothed out. My hand did not give out, even on the intricate scale passages. And thankfully, the judges didn’t tell the soloist she needed a better accompanist. (Yes, I live in fear of that.)

Later that night, I told my husband about the performance and the sad realization that I could not call my father.  He smiled and said, “I think he heard. But tonight, he didn’t need the phone.”

And a happy note – she won!

4 thoughts on “Firsts

  1. Terri this is beautiful, and your playing will always be a fitting tribute to your dad. My mom has been gone for more than four years, and I still find myself resisting the impulse to pick up the phone so that I can share something with her. Of course, she probably already knows whatever it is that I was going to share.

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