Monday, May 7, 2012

Handel's Xerxes, An Aging Grandfather, and a Glimpse of the Divine

On Sunday afternoon, I drove my parents and my son's upright bass in the minivan to the Princeton Public Library, where Gabriel had a gig with his chamber music orchestra. My husband and Gabriel drove down in the family sedan. (Our 12-year-old had a soccer game and couldn't make it). The long roads to arrive at the moment of performance, gave me a sense, a powerful sense, of the Infinite breaking into our everyday lives.

We four adults ended up sitting in the folding chairs the front row, a few inches from the violinists, who ranged in age from 6 to 18. The youngest ones' feet didn't even touch the floor as they played.

My dad has been largely home-bound for the past few years with a host of ailments. A retired surgeon, he turns 83 in September and has been frustrated that every time our son has a concert, he hasn't been able to make it due to his health. Neither he nor my mom, who live about two hours from us, ever has heard my son play the bass. They have been married 56 years now and my mother finds herself his primary caregiver.

For his part, Gabriel was asked to sightread selections yesterday because the first bassist unexpectedly didn't show up. Other children in the orchestra face challenges every day. While most of them come from middle class homes, a few have been homeless and some currently are in foster care.  Side by side, they played selections from Handel's Xerxes, an opera first performed in London in 1738.

As the musicians played, my father was close enough to the first violinist that he could read the notes of her music and thus, follow along her playing. This delighted him. In the background, we clearly could hear Gabriel confidently stringing a part he never had played.

Without warning, tears began pouring from my eyes. Where did they come from? What was it I was feeling? Sadness? No. Pride? No.

Joy? Yes, that was it. I thought about all the challenges we in the audience had faced to be here for this moment. I thought about the children playing, how many hours of practice had brought them to this carpeted library room to make some beautiful music. I thought about how unified we all were despite differences in age, and circumstances and culture.

My father turned to me.  "How can you not believe in God when you hear something like this?" he said.  His eyes were full of tears, too.


  1. The imagery of your dad, the music, the tears... this all hit me very hard. Beautiful post.

    As someone in the midst of a more insane than usual schedule, this post invited me to be still. What a gift. Thank you.

  2. Thank you Allison for sharing a beautifully tender moment and bringing joy and yes, tears to me as well. May God continue to bless your family.

  3. Beautiful! So glad your dad got to share this moment with you and your son.