Sunday, June 21, 2009

How Dad helped get that piano up the stairs

This time, as with last time, my Father's Day offering to my dad is a nod upstairs.

This is the second spring since his passing. Last spring about this time my brothers and I were elbow-deep in cleaning out the house of our childhood and his fatherhood.

I'll bet many who've been in this situation have had the same sensation: that the person lost was in the room with you as you sifted through his or her effects. I didn't feel it initially. Then I came to think he might have been in several places with us, particularly the stairwell.

If so, it would have been one of the first times in his mostly robust 86 years that, with heavy labor to do, he wasn't pushing, lifting or pulling.

This time what he did was the thinking.

That's what I started believing.

Those few days in the house, too many coincidences happened for me to ascribe them to anything but Dad fluttering around to make them so.

That week, for instance, a cold front came through Denver. I had come from Texas with nothing whatsoever to break the chill. I reached in his still-full bedroom closet for something to wear. My hand hit a nicely lined flannel jacket we bought for him one Christmas.

Pulling it out, I remembered that Dad's arms were a couple of inches shorter than mine.

"Probably won't fit," I thought.

It didn't. Not at first. Then I realized the sleeves were rolled. When I unfolded them, it fit my arms perfectly. It's in my closet right now.

It was the first of a string of odd occurrences that took dilemmas off our hands.

* The driver who brought the roll-off disposal container fell in love with Dad's '80s Crown Victoria and bought it.

* A father and son who salvaged metal made a bounteous keep of discards we didn't want to haul to the dump, including a once-exalted tetherball poll.

* A mattress we propped up against Dad's crab apple tree with a "Take it: good condition" sign got snatched up.

Then there was the piano.

I wish I knew how Dad got it in the basement. He hadn't asked for our help. But there it had been for at least 30 years.

One of my tasks on this trip was to deliver the lonely piano to my oldest son, who had given it many workouts when visiting Grandpa's house.

Knowing we couldn't extricate the piano ourselves, we called movers. They arrived: three men. One had a broken foot. Another was able but deaf. The third appeared mostly inclined to bark orders, and not in sign language. My brother and I exchanged "Oh, geeze" glances.

Eying the outside stairwell, the crew leader had an idea: Put a pad down. Lean the piano on its side. With him pulling the pad and us pushing from below, slide it up the stairs. Hah. I suggested instead that we use some nearby boards for a ramp. He wouldn't hear of it. He was the pro.

Our eyes bugged out as we pushed from below. Crew Chief slipped and fell as he pulled the padding. The piano, which had advanced one whole step, started to slide back, almost crushing us.

We tried it again. Futility.

Finger-spell mutiny

At this point I appealed to the deaf mover with one of my hidden talents. I can finger spell. My fingers spelled out "boards." Sweat pouring off his forehead, he nodded frantically. Crew Chief, you just got outvoted.

It turned out that the boards, two-by-fours, were perfectly proportioned. They reached from the top step all the way to the bottom. We placed padding on them and leaned the piano on its side. We pushed. Though not without great strain, it slid up the make-shift ramp. Mission accomplished. Take me to a chiropractor.

Later I wondered: Why the heck were thick, perfectly measured boards neatly stacked beside the stairwell? What purpose?

It must have been to help raise that once-lonely piano from that basement, so that one of Dad's grandsons could compose music on it a time zone away. It's something the kid might be doing at this very moment.

Thanks for thinking of him, Dad.

John Young's column appears Thursday and Sunday. E-mail:


Michael Young said...

I cleaned out that very stairway this morning!! Remembered being nearly pinned against the wall at the bottom of the stairs.

I LIKE THE WEBSITE. Understated and uncluttered. Did you have help putting it together?

willie mays 24 said...

Help with the site? Oh, my. Well, I'd be constructing the human genome project before I'd build a Web site. Yes, a young Austinite named Josiah Spence built it. Nice indeed. Thanks, Mike! -- John Young