Wednesday, August 29, 2007
August 5, 2007 - St. Paul, Minnesota...
I'm trying to imagine being 91. To have lived through almost a century of changes. Victories and defeats. People coming and going. And to think of all those things one does and accomplishes in life over the span of nine decades...all the sub-lifetimes encompassed by those years.
I'm picturing going through a challenging transition that begins the day someone I care about tells me I can no longer take care of myself, launching me into yet another new era. Grandpa had merely been a visitor for the previous seven years, when grandma went into the nursing home after her stroke. He could come and go as he pleased. He was just a visitor.
So many great things to see in children, as we visualize their futures and all they will accomplish in their lifetimes. But on the other end of the spectrum, how often does someone in their nineties get a chance to be recognized for all they did in the past? To be validated for what has already moved into the black and white of history books?
I am so grateful to have been a part of a very special reunion today...
In 1957, my grandpa was one of three guys who put together a drum and bugle corps (ensemble) for the St. Paul Boy Scouts. Grandpa was in charge of teaching and coaching the horn players, while the other two taught the drummers and coordinated the travel and expenses incurred. He remained a part of the corps for nearly 10 years.
Grandpa wrote arrangements for the band as well, and as the history goes, this crew was the talk of the Midwestern drum and bugle scene. They were known for their unique musical selections and their maticulous attention to presentation details.
In the last year, half a dozen or so of the original band members decided to pull together a fiftieth anniversary celebration, complete with a concert and an exhaustive written history, complete with photographs and any sound files they could find.
Grandpa wasn't well enough to attend, so - out of sheer goodness and gratitude and respect - five of the planners brought the party to him. And Dave and I got to be a part of it. I couldn't have been more thankful.
Grandpa was saluted for nearly two hours, with these five "kids" laughing and telling stories about grandpa's industrious (if not intimidating) teaching methods, his leadership as a conductor, and his presence in their lives at a time when they really needed solid male role models.
Grandpa can hardly hear now and, even after they had repeated their names countless times, he could still just barely grasp who they were specifically. But he got why they were there. They were thanking him. After fifty years and all of the countless sub-lives these and other ex-corp members have lived, they spent a Sunday afternoon honoring him.
Of course, I have always known that grandpa has taught hundreds of young horn students over the years, and that long ago, he had initiated the drum and bugle corp. But not until today did I even think about the personal impact he had on countless numbers of young men. One of the five even cried a bit talking about how much grandpa and the corps meant to him and helped launch him towards a happier life than the one he had seemingly been dealt.
This was a really special day. Not to be forgotten. I'm so proud of what he did.
The above are pictures of grandpa and the corp in action, and a copy of one of grandpa's handwritten arrangements. In the first picture, he is the man conducting. In the second, he is the one at the forefront corner of the unit. In the third, he's the adult on the far-right side of the second row. The boy in the first row far left, and the one in the first row far right are two of the guys there today.