|Grandma Kuntz, Christmas 1981|
This is my Grandma Kuntz. I always think of her around Labor Day; since her birthday was September 8th, I would need to be putting a card in the mail to her. Since I can't send her a card, I am going to pay tribute to her here instead.
If I remember the story correctly, in the late 1950's, she and my grandpa left their small farm "in the country" and bought a small apartment house in St. Louis. My dad met my mom there while he was a student at Washington University and the rest, as they say, is history.
My earliest memories of living in the area are from Berkeley, a suburb of St. Louis, where my parents purchased their first home in the early 60's. Every Sunday, though, we would drive to St. Louis and pick my grandma up and take her to church, returning afterwards to her house for Sunday dinner. I can still taste her fried chicken and mashed potatoes, pot roast and gravy, fried apples and biscuits. Then the grown-ups would chat while my brothers and I spent the afternoon watching reruns on television (and fighting, no doubt). Those were the good old days.
My grandma also bought me my first piano, for my seventh birthday; I think she dreamed of me being a church pianist someday. But I ended up taking lessons from a classically trained teacher and instead learned to read and play "serious" music. It wasn't until after Grandma was gone that I finally became skillful enough following a lead sheet to even attempt to play the style of music that she loved. And I will never be as good as the young man who played for our small Baptist church - strictly by ear, tearing up the keyboard with extra chords and embellishments.
But Grandma was always happy when I did a "special," a southern gospel song that she would pick out for me, as part of the worship service, playing straight from the sheet music and accompanying myself as I sang. I never have been much of a vocalist but I always did my best and appreciated the chorus of "Amens" at the conclusion of each performance. I wish I could remember the names of some of the solos I did; maybe my parents will be able to help me out. I have no doubt that those early experiences contributed to my later development as a musician.
My boys don't remember their great-grandma; she died when Josh was just a baby. But I love her and I miss her and I appreciate everything she did to get me started on what turned out to be a career in music and a lifetime love affair with the piano. And I hope she is proud of me.