A while ago, I mentioned in passing, to my parents, that my daughter was thinking about playing violin for orchestra in 5th grade. "Oh, we have your grandpa's old violin. We'll give it to you," they said. And then added, "It may need some work."
Grandpa played violin? I missed that. I like to think that I knew him well. I knew he was a brilliant electrical engineer. I knew he grew countless varieties of African violets under fluorescent lights in the basement. I knew he could make anything and everything out of wood, from candlesticks, to dollhouses (that one was for me), to king-size beds. I knew he volunteered at the local hospital. I knew he made amazing pancakes in any shape we wanted. I knew he would let me sit on his lap and twirl his hair into horns without complaining. Okay, maybe he complained a little. I knew he would pretend to bite my fingers when I walked them past his chin, but never actually did. And I knew he always, always offered his arm to Grandma as they walked. He was the funny prankster that balanced my Grandma's strict, but always kind manner.
But violin? Of course, it is just one small thing among many that I missed. After all, he had a whole lifetime of experience before I came along.
Top: Grandpa and his big brother, Minonk, IL 1909
Bottom: Blowing glass in the Purdue University laboratory 1933-1936
So during a recent visit with my parents, I found the violin placed on my bed. The case was tattered and dusty, no problem. I like tattered and dusty. With an Illinois sticker across the surface. That's a little harder. Now it's something he touched, something that mattered.
I opened the case and my heart just sank. This was not a violin. It's what used to be a violin. The strings were a tangle. There was something stuck inside the body that was rattling around. Nothing was really attached.
We took it home and put it aside for a while.
Finally, one night Dave and I took the violin out of its case and dusted it off and untangled the strings. Maybe it wasn't so bad...
We decided to take the violin to Menchey Music to see what they could do. Menchy Music has been in the area for decades, and when Dave said that his dad bought his trumpet there (probably 60 years ago) I figured it was worth a shot. All of their violin restorations are done in their Hanover, PA store, so I had to say goodbye to Grandpa's violin. I wasn't too happy about that, but the salesperson assured me they would be in touch with a price quote in a few days and if it was just too much, they would bring it back to me and there would be no charge.
True to their word, a technician called a few days later. He mentioned the "extensive" repair that was needed and I braced for the worst. And then it came.
I asked about the finish (which was a bit cracked and worn, but not in horrible shape) and the technician said that he wouldn't touch the finish. "I like the finish that way," he said. Now I knew I had the right place. Besides, as he pointed out, if the violin was worth something, that would actually damage the value.
I picked the violin up the following week. It was absolutely beautiful. Now, as I hear my daughter play "Hot Cross Buns" for the millionth time, I think Grandpa would be rather amused.