The Steinway

I mentioned several days ago that my daughter, Susan, bought me my piano, a magnificent six-foot Steinway. That story of how that came to be is worth retelling.

It starts with my divorce from my first wife, the mother of my four children. During the hearings, my wife had testified about me and offered evidence why she should be awarded the lion’s share of out joint holdings. I had just taken the witness stand to tell my side of the story and recount her misdeeds when I spotted a neighbor coming into the courtroom with one of my daughters. I clammed up. I wasn’t about to narrate my wife’s considerable failings and egregious acts before one of her children.

I learned later that my wife had arranged for one of my children to be present during my testimony. She believed, correctly, that I would not level severe criticisms against her with one of her children listening. The end result was that I lost everything. My wife was awarded all our property, and I had to pay alimony. I was destitute. I was reduced to living in a rented attic in a joint house with five other men.

Over the years, I gradually regained financial equilibrium. Then my ex-wife died suddenly. I was free of the onerous alimony.

Meanwhile, my oldest daughter, Susan, now an adult, and I subscribed to the ballet series at the Kennedy Center every year. Often, before the performance, we would visit the opera house lounge. We would arrive early in the evening before the hired pianist was on duty. I’ve never been able to resist a playing a piano sitting idle and waiting for attention, so I asked if I could try the Steinway grand that was in the lounge.

Over the years, I tried a number of different pianos. One I played enthralled me. It had the most beautiful sound I had ever encountered. I played it before each of the performances that season. The next season, it was gone—replaced by another piano.

More tomorrow.

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