My Grampa comes to visit, and he tunes our piano. I stand to the side, watching, fascinated. He unwinds the thick red felt ribbon and carefully tucks it between the revealed strings, explaining that it will stop those strings from vibrating. I hang on his every word, his every action, even though he tunes our piano every time he visits. He strikes the tuning fork against his leg and listens to it ring, then plunks his gnarled finger (“I’m losing my fight against my enemy, Arthur,” he’ll say) down upon a key.
From his pouch of tools he deftly plucks just the right instrument and reaches into the depths of the piano, twisting and turning something I cannot see, and the tone of the note twists and turns with the movement of his hand. He plunks again, twists again, plunks and strikes and twists until he is satisfied, then moves on to another key.
He explains to me about wavelengths and vibrations and hammers and dampers and life. He strikes and plunks and twists and moves that thick red felt ribbon to a new position. It is better than any television show I might watch. Finally, he rolls his felt ribbon into a bright red coil and tucks it away with his tools, then closes up the piano, hiding the mystery of the music within. He adjusts the bench, and then sits.
The first song is always, “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”. I could sit there forever and let the music of his heart swirl around me. The big band and jazz tunes flow from the piano, find their way to my toes, my fingers, weave themselves into my heart. Too soon, he is done.
Later, we will go to the church together and he will tune the piano there.
Years later, I will play from the books my Gramma has sent me, the books my Grampa played from, the music of his heart, and I will remember.