Thank you, Daddy, for That Ugly Piano

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So often, we don’t realize the sacrifices our parents made for us until it is too late to thank them.

When my brothers and I were growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, we were POOR! Mother and Dad were working very hard to build their struggling business and there was no money to spare. I remember one Christmas when the only present we received was a set of building blocks that our dad had cut out of a 4×4 board, sanded, added some cheap decals and then finished with shellac.

I recently attended the Van Cliburn International Competition in Fort Worth. For a couple of the performances I sat next to a man who told me that both his parents were concert pianists and music educators, so he was required to learn to play piano. I told him that my experience was quite different — I wanted to learn to play so badly, but we had no piano and could not afford piano lessons. My grandmother did have a Baldwin spinet. Every time we visited her house, I tried to teach myself to read the music she had. But that only happened a couple of times a month, so I didn’t make much progress.

Finally, when I was about 10 and still yearning to play piano, my father appeared with an old, battered upright piano in the back of his pickup. I believe he paid $100 for it.

The poor thing was painted Battleship Gray! It was really ugly. I think my mother and I eventually painted it yellow, which didn’t make it much better.

But it was mine! I’m sure Daddy thought it was an unnecessary frivolity. But I was finally able to walk to Mrs. Deatherage’s house for piano lessons, and, after we moved to another neighborhood, to Mrs. Huff’s.

Dad had no musical background, but that didn’t stop him from being a critic! I can still hear him yelling from his recliner in the other room, “You’ve played that same passage five times and made the same mistake every time!”

By the time I was in high school, we had inherited my grandmother’s spinet, and the old battleship upright went away. I became Mrs. Huff’s star pupil for a short time.

No, I never went on to musical greatness. And I don’t think I adequately thanked my mother and dad for the pleasure that piano gave me.

I told my new friend at the Cliburn competition that I didn’t know back then what kind of sacrifice that ugly piano meant for my dad.

“But he loved his little girl,” he replied.

Happy Father’s Day in Heaven, Daddy.