The black and white keys all felt the same as I slid my hand down the smooth keyboard. Not a single one made a sound, they kept their secrets locked inside them. Silent encouragement came from the grand piano that sat in front of me. My mind shuffled through the many pieces I had memorized years before until I found one I could fully remember. The Minuet played through my head, my hands found there way to the beginning notes. Echoes bounced off of the wall when I pressed down on the familiar keys. Scanning the room, everything remained in place, neat and clean just how my mother likes it. Music left this house many years ago, the beautiful piano only became useful when a flower vase was placed on top. Recomposing myself, I let the note break the silence, followed with the next measure of the song. My fingers raced each other, but stayed perfectly in sync through out the measures. I could still remember his foot tapping along to the beat, right behind me in the old rocking chair.
My grandfather had been a part of my life since the moment it had begun. He was the only father figure I needed, as much as my mother would disagree. His kind round face appeared to me first thing in the mornings, and the last thing at night. Our love of music only brought us closer, every evening after diner he sat in his rocker and taught me different melodies. With him music made me feel free. It was only on that cold October day five years ago that piano music became such a painful burden. I was called out of my class that day, any twelve year old would look forward to leaving school early. Entering the small white office, I could see my mother’s back facing me. Her posture was tense, and from the gloomy looks I was receiving from the staff members I could tell there was something more to this day. When she turned around, her blood shot eyes met mine and quickly looked away. “Mama?” She shook her head no, she was good at shutting people out. Her hand found my shoulder, squeezing it tightly. Maybe for reassurance, maybe for stability, but her hand guided us out to the car. Our race home, the only detail she gave about the abrupt dismissal was, “It’s your Grandfather.” My mind was oddly at peace, I was used to him not feeling well because of the radiation. Stage four cancer hadn’t fazed me then, it seemed like it was just a cold.
“He’s comfortable, and as of right now, thats all we can do.” I overheard the slim women in a white, nicely pressed, uniform talking with my mother. My brain was still in denial, not taking the time to comprehend what was actually happening. I walked into the family room which housed the grand piano and where my grandfather was sitting in his ratty old rocking chair. His body was small and fragile, wrapped in blankets; only one of his hands was able to move about freely. I gave him a light peck on his hot cheek. His bright smile took away the paleness in his face.
“Hey Grandpa, what can I do for you?” His breathes were long and heavy. With his free hand he motioned to the Piano, nothing else needed to be said. I gave him another peck on the cheek before turning around and sitting on the cool bench. I tied my hair away from my face, looking back at my grandpa before beginning the latest piece I had learned, the Minuet. The piece was difficult from what I was used to, after the first week of practicing I had wanted to give up on it. Grandpa sat beside me on the bench everyday and made me practice measure by measure. I could feel his eyes on me when I played through, metal reminding myself to play softer or slow down. When my hands floated off the key board at the end of the song, I turned around to receive feedback on my performance.
His head was nodding, as if I were still playing and he took a deep breath. “Good,” His eyes focused on mine, “You know Missy? There is no doubt in my mind that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.”
My smile grew. “I love you Grandpa.”
“I love you too.” I continued playing until my mother ushered me to bed. That night he died peacefully in his sleep, in that rocking chair.
My hands moved fluently through the piece, but unlike other times before, I encouraged the memory instead of suppressing it. A single tear escaped its place and slid down my cheek. My eyes stayed shut, but still my figures found every key a part of the song. Not hearing her footprints, I was startled to feel my mother’s hand on my shoulder, squeezing it tightly. I allowed the keys to ring out there final thoughts before ending the soothing nose. The once colorless room seemed brighter when I opened my eyes. Even without the old rocking chair.