Created by Ruth Elliott

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Jamming with the Generations

Image via WikipediaWide angle photo of the action of a Kawai UST-...

I come from a musical family. My mom, Isabel, played the piano, accordion, trombone, and violin. She sang solos at church. When she was younger, she was in a Gilbert & Sullivan production of the Pirates of Penzance. My dad, Don, met my mom at a Bible camp. He heard someone playing the accordion and followed the sound to discover my mom there.

The piano at the social center in the 19th cen...Image via Wikipedia

My mom came from a musical family. I remember listening to her sister, Elsie, singing with a Sweet Adelines group. One of my mom's prized possessions was an ornately carved upright piano. This piano was inherited by her dad from his father (B. P. Richardson). Since my great grandfather died in 1910, the piano is more than 100 years old.

As I was growing up, I took piano lessons and practiced on this beautiful piano. My five younger brothers and sisters also learned to play with this piano. Each of my siblings also learned to play another musical instrument (euphonium, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, and flute). We would gather around the piano and play and sing. My mom was so delighted with her musical children.

Once I stopped taking piano lessons (when I was 15, in Grade 8 of Royal Conservatory Music), I continued to play the piano. I turned from playing classical music to popular music and church music. I practiced more once I ceased piano lessons than before. I was now playing whatever I wanted to play. Over the years since then, I have discovered such solace and comfort in playing the piano.

When we had our three children, I wanted them to learn to play the piano for their own enjoyment. All three took piano lessons. They also learned to play other instruments (trombone, flute, saxophone, and tuba). This year, when my daughter went to Ambrose University in Calgary, she took her flute with her. She joined an orchestra and began jam sessions with a small group of students. Prior to this, she had only played the notes on the page. Now she has learned to improvise.

When my daughter came home for Christmas, she kept asking us to jam with her. Finally we sat down to do this. My husband got out his guitar (which he hasn't played for over 20 years). My daughter played the flute. My son (the tuba player who doesn't own a tuba) and I team-played the piano. I sang. We ended up singing and playing our way through the entire Reader's Digest Christmas songbook. It was so much fun.

In the last few years of her life, my mom (who died in 1998) had difficulty with singing and playing the piano. She said that she was looking forward to playing the piano in heaven.

The other evening I thought of how delighted my mom, her father, and grandfather would have been to see the fruits of their musical gifts being expressed in joyous song in my living room. Maybe they were playing along in the heavenly realms (jamming with the generations).

Joy to the World. Merry Christmas to you. May you enjoy the gift of being with your family and loved ones at Christmas.
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

This Broken Road of Grief

I've walked this road before I know but this time it's so final. I've lived in this world without my Mom (Isabel Sanders) for many years (since 1998) but this will be my first Christmas without my Dad (Don Sanders) as part of my earthly family circle.

This afternoon I read Bonnie Stewart's blog post about a Christmas card that had gone astray. Each year for the four years they have lived in their home, a card has arrived for the previous family.

Bonnie's thoughts triggered this post.

Every year my parents sent out their annual Christmas letter. In turn they received cards and letters from friends around the world. The cards and letters were piled up in a special Christmas basket. Once I left home, I was welcome to read through the Christmas cards and letters when I returned.

I would usually sit in the living room with my parents or with only my Dad in recent years. As I went through all the cards and letters, we would chat about the sender. I connected with those people through my parents. Now, my parents are both gone. What will happen to those connections?

Like Bonnie, I stopped sending Christmas cards a few years back. I became a full-time working mother and something had to give. Christmas cards fell by the wayside. Now that we are almost empty nesters, maybe it is time for me to begin this annual connection tradition again.

My Dad was quite modern for an 86 year old. He still wrote letters but he also used email to keep in touch with his friends. After Dad died, one of my tasks was to send an email notice to all of those on his email address list. We gave Dad's computer to a friend of his. That was one very difficult thing after Dad died on May 8th. We had to clear out his apartment by the end of the month. I felt that I was dismantling my Dad's life and then there was nothing physical left. It was different with my Mom because my Dad continued to live in the home they had shared.

Last year Dad came to Saskatoon for Christmas. He spent most of Christmas lying on the couch because of pain in his leg. (cancer) I'm so thankful for the trips we took together and for all the visits we made to his home in Regina. I know that I was a good daughter to him and have no regrets about our time together here on earth.

However, at the moment, I just feel sad. My first Christmas without my Dad.
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