I didn’t want to play the glockenspiel. I mean, rhonestly: who does? But my father had bought my mother a grand piano, and the person filling the house with sounds from it was yours truly—Little Deitch.
I, though, wanted to play the flute. And I wanted to be in the school band. Who knew that the music for the piano and the music for the glockenspiel were the same? And who cared? I was a child! Certainly I could play both the piano and the flute?
Anyway, the thing was that my father was sick. So, as I’ve intimated here at Distant Dock before, there were things happening behind the scenes that I knew nothing about—that I didn’t understand at all. I assume that the fact that my father was sick—that he was dying—had something to do with why 1) I was taking piano lessons in the first place, and 2) I was being asked to play the glockenspiel in the school band.
This is what I remember: My mother and father were sitting on a bench by the piano, and I was standing in front of them. I was nine, and I was crying. I was saying that I didn’t want to play the glockenspiel. They were not angry, but they were adamant. My father had always been the kind of man who stood with good posture and bucket loads of what the Tibetans call “lungta”—genuine, friendly confidence and presence. But on this day I remember him a little bent over, and kind of holding himself up with his hands on the bench. (It’s funny how I dress him in my mind; in my mind I dress him in my favorite shirts and shoes from his closet: two tone golf shoes and a red-and-white vertical-stripped shirt, well pressed, with buttons shaped like tiny feet.)
I didn’t register it at the time, but when I look back, that’s what I see. I see my mother being gentle with me, as if to say, “Do this for your father.” But I didn’t get the message then. It took me until recently to get it: it travelled over time and space—forty-six years—and it waited in my unconscious until I started the Dad Memories, to try to remember where my love comes from. I loved my dad. I didn’t know he was going to die. Had I known, I would have happily, eagerly played the glockenspiel in the school band. At least I hope I would have.