Exactly one month ago, my grandfather passed away. He was a kind and gentle person, and perhaps the most generous I’ve ever known. He was not extremely wealthy, but lived simply and with the mindset of someone raised during the Great Depression. He saved wrapping paper, coins, dollar bills, and anything small that might be useful later on. And he was usually right. He wasn’t a hoarder–he didn’t arbitrarily hold on to just anything. Every quarter or dime he received in change, he would place into a used Peanut Butter jar with a slit in it, like a bank, and then when the jar was full, he’d give it to one of his grandchildren (or all three) to roll and count and then keep.
He took care of his possessions, still using tools, dishes, appliances, and many other things that he’d owned for decades. Included in this was his record player. Over time, though family had given him CD’s and a CD player (his favorite place to play CD’s was on his TV’s DVD player), he always kept and would play his favorite records.
Now his record player sits in my living room, and the first thing I did when I brought it home was to set it up and play one of his Glenn Miller albums. Like everything else he’d owned, the turntable is in pristine condition. And though I grew up listening to records on my parents’ turntable, listening on his these few weeks has been a new experience.
I can step into his world in a way I never had before, understanding more about his life and the world in which he grew up, went to war, had a family, all through the crackle of sound imprinted on a vinyl record. Vinyl is both clean and exact, yet also gritty, not always smooth. My grandfather’s life was similar. It contained the precision inborn in his personality and ingrained from decades in the military, yet was gritty, never going strictly according to plan. The more I listen to records, both his and mine, old and new, the more I understand his life.
I am continually amazed at the ways music has this ability to connect and re-member us to one another, and I am grateful especially in this case for my grandfather’s unwillingness to get rid of this treasure from 30 years ago.