Sunday, June 15, 2014

My Father, George Rubin,
Serving the public for 37 years at
Metropolitan News Agency
1248 Peel Street,
Montreal, Canada

I woke up this morning missing my Pop and Cliff - but then, I wake up every morning missing my Pop and Cliff. But my thoughts flowed outward from Cliff's sweet face to his beautiful hands and his piano.
The piano Cliff and I bought so many years ago stands here in my tiny apartment, dusty - and waiting. Waiting for me to gather my parts together and try again. In recent years, illness and trouble with thieves have drained my energy - but not my hope.
It was a Saturday morning in the 1970's when I had finally found my home with Cliff. I had fought my way through all the storms and now I was really home. I woke up that morning  ... there must have been a muse sitting on my bed, because I woke up that morning determined that Cliff should have a piano of his own TODAY.
Through the decades, Cliff played pianos in nightclubs and supper clubs and lounges and the homes of rich people like the Harrimans in New York City and Montreal. But here we were, together at last, and Cliff had no piano of his own.
We went out to buy a piano. We looked at some glossy little apartment pianos and great black and white baby grands in a fine piano store on Sherbrooke Street West, but none of those instruments touched me. The owner of the shop recommended that we visit a strange old man on Van Horne who created his own musical instruments. He was a skilled musician, an inventor of instruments no one had thought of before, and he kept a used piano shop.
And so we went out to see this musical genius. We checked out the pianos in his shop, plinking on this one and that one, and thinking. Then the inventor revealed that he had a secret cache. Out in back of his store, in the snow, there was a rickety garage. And in that garage, there were six very old upright pianos, preserved by some miracle against many Montreal winters.
So I plinked the keys of the venerable veterans, one by one, moving toward the back, until the last row - and there! There! The very last piano in the very last row on the left - by the crack in the back wall. My amateur fingers touched the keys of the olde Lindsay upright and my soul vibrated. That piano had been waiting for Cliff for a very long time.
The 75 year old Lindsay upright followed us home the next day. But it took a crane to lift it up over the treetops to our living room window. I held my breath. It was a stunning experience to see that great old piano swaying through the air. Made it!
The next morning was one of the most important mornings of my life. I woke to the sound of Cliff playing his own piano. The memory of that moment still warms my heart.
I am the Words,
You are the Music,
We are The Song !
The Sheba
But this was not the first piano of my life. My family moved in with my maternal grandparents, Israel and Dvoira Feldman, when I was just starting kindergarten. My uncles had married and moved away and my grandmother invited us away from the slums around St. Lawrence Blvd. to what is now known as The Plateau, the area around Park Avenue. It was a huge step up for our family.
There was an upright piano in the parlour. My mother told me that when she was young, she had wanted to be a piano teacher. And I thought - There is no way that piano came up the narrow staircase of our third story home. That piano must have flown over the great poplar tree through my grandmother's parlour window before I was born. But then I realized that, back then, the poplar was also young and not an obstacle.
I have never really learned to play, though I have come close many times over the years, studying piano and guitar and loving it, but never quite getting over the hump. Life has always tossed stones at me just when I was beginning to learn. The first time, when I was a young girl, I was doing really well. My professor, Beleau Dante, told my mother I had real talent and he wanted to prepare me to do a concert on radio that Christmas. Just then my Bobbeh Dear, my Grandmother, Dvoira, died, and no music could be played in the house for a year of mourning.
1991: I found a wonderful piano teacher in a newspaper ad. His name was David Don  He finally got me past the damn scales and exercises and the endless confusion of trying to read the left hand. David Don showed me that I could play immediately - using chords with the left hand. The heavens flew open!
All my life I had struggled to learn to play the piano and, instantly, I was playing the music I loved so much. And then Cliff got really sick and he died, and my music was gone. I could not sing a note for two years. 
To this day, though I remember hundreds of tunes and the lyrics and my voice is good, there is no one to sing for, no joy in music. The old songs warm my heart but they are wrenching.
Father's Day. I must dust off the olde Lindsay upright and try again.    
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