Psalm 103:17 But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children.
Friday night Dave and I heard Emanuel Ax and the Pittsburgh Symphony play Beethoven’s Piano Concerto Number 5. On this Father’s Day weekend it was the perfect setting for remembering my dad. I heard this concerto dozens of times as a child. Each delicate trill and soaring crescendo and the full-bodied strings evoke for me some of the warmest memories of my childhood.
I realized as I listened to the music that my very presence at that concert was probably due to a decision Dad made before I was born. Somehow he decided to include among the sparse possessions they packed for Guatemala a few records of classical music and a record player. This is more remarkable considering there wasn’t electricity yet in the remote mountain Mayan-Ixil village at the end of a rough dirt track that would become “home.”
My memories begin not in the one room my parents and three older siblings lived in first, but in the one-bedroom adobe house they moved to before I was born. When I was six, a fireplace was built in the living room, adding to the cooking fire in the kitchen another source of heat. The next year, now with seven children, Dad moved his office from an eight by eight foot room to the garage, so that he and Mom could move out of the living room into their own bedroom. They hauled into Nebaj on our luggage trailer an old couch, an armchair, and a rocking chair to replace the double bed that had previously occupied most of that space.
Thus the living room became a gathering place for our family at the end of the day. No matter how cold the mountain chill, except for Christmas Day we only had a fire in the fireplace after supper, and that made those evenings even more appealing. We read books, played games, and made jigsaw puzzles, to the background (when there was electricity) of Dad’s classical records. As if by common consent, we laid aside the conflicts, emotional clutter, and concerns of the day. Somehow Beethoven and Tchaikovsky knit together our frayed affections before we left the warmth for our chilly beds. My youngest sister recalls hearing Dad’s classical music coming through the door from the living room to the bedroom as she fell asleep.
My husband did not receive a classical music heritage. Dave takes me to concerts to please me, and he does often enjoy the music. But for me, it communicates love and security. My siblings confirm this is true for them as well. One of my sisters says, “I’ve often found that turning on classical music brings an immediate release of tension. I close my eyes, give a contented sigh and start to breathe deeply, relax my shoulders and even smile a bit—signs of feeling safe. A treasured heritage.” Life by day in our home could be stressful, but God used Dad’s impractical choices to provide a safe space for us in the evenings. Thank you, Dad. Thank you, Lord.