I am truly honored that Victor Dolore has agreed to guest post for me today. Please join me in welcoming the good doctor to Cordelia’s Mom’s house:
THE LOST NOTES
By Victo Dolore
My grandmother’s spinet piano sat unplayed after her death for over a decade. My grandfather had given it to her many years before, and it was her most prized possession.
My grandfather tried to kill himself every day after her funeral, smoking three packs of cigarettes a day. If you asked him he would tell you why he wouldn’t stop smoking: “Because I want to die.” He worked hard at it. When he did eventually pass, I found out that he had wanted me to have that piano.
There was no place really to put the piano, and about half a dozen keys were stuck or would not play. Still, it was my grandmother’s – and my grandfather wanting me to have it was his way of saying “I love you” one last time. I couldn’t bear to have it lying on a garbage heap somewhere. I had to have it. Pianos are exceedingly heavy and difficult to move, and it took thousands of dollars to get it even close to playable again. Some of the ivory was chipped, making the keys jagged. That just could not be fixed.
Then, I stopped playing. It sat unused in my house for over a decade until my son started using it for his own practice.
Side step for a moment…
For over twenty years I have searched for a particular arrangement of Pachelbel’s Canon in D that I played for my high school talent show. My best friend played the flute in a duet. It was spectacular as we practiced it. In fact, we were a favorite to win the show after we pulled it off flawlessly in the rehearsal. I floated in those notes in my sleep, my fingers knew it so well.
At the time of the actual performance, however, I froze midway through. For maybe twenty seconds (it felt like an eternity) I just sat there at the grand piano keyboard, panicked. I have no idea why I lost my place in the music. Finally, I recognized where we were and I picked back up. Our chances to win were blown, and my friend and I never played together in public again.
That music has haunted me, though.
It was the most achingly beautiful piece of music I had ever heard or played. While even now my fingers still remember parts of it, there are large chunks of the melody that have disappeared from my mind. When I realized that the notes were slipping away from me, I went looking for the physical sheet music. It had been lost. For the past twenty years I have tried to find it, purchasing or looking at every arrangement I could get my hands on but none of them was ever the exact right one.
I needed that exact right arrangement. All of the others felt like shallow impostors.
Last night I picked up one of those not quite right arrangements and found that it was now somehow good enough. I had lost the detailed memory of the old arrangement to the point that I could now replace it with this. I stumbled through it several times, emotions flooding back. In the process I could recognize how badly out of tune the piano actually was, just like my memories.
The last time I had played the Canon I was full of hope for the future but still wallowing in the shame of a botched performance. The shame is now gone, I can just enjoy the piece for its simple beauty again.
But this piano. I cannot keep this piano if my son is going to keep learning. It has to be replaced. I tell myself that it is a thing, not the person, that I am letting go of that the memories will last forever. But if I am honest with myself the memories won’t last forever. I mourn them like I mourn the loss of my sheet music and my piano and my grandmother and my grandfather and my youth. I mourn these things like the billions of other people across the face of this Earth mourn their own losses.
We are all the same. Moving on, marching forward, letting go.
Images by Victo Dolore