I had a pleasant dream one Saturday morning about an auction. I hadn't been to an auction in a while, even though two fifty-cent La-Z-Boy armchairs in the living room testified of my success. This unexpected dream prompted me to look up the listings, and what would you know, there was an estate auction just across the highway that very morning.
The quality of an auction is always hard to tell from the pictures. Jacob noticed a pair of over-ear headphones in the listing, but as far as we could tell they were cheap and generic. I had been eyeing ninety-dollar Sennheiser 280 Pros so I could record someone singing into a mic without the accompaniment track bleeding through the monitor headphones. In the end, I crossed the highway because of a Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo. Not our dream car, but what if it was a deal?
I had to remind myself that estate auctions wouldn't happen if they didn't attract a throng of buyers, so I had better not hope for much of a deal. Indeed, the street was lined with parked cars almost as I soon as I turned into it. In my snow-colored rainjacket I was a white vulture amid the committee; but, we were innocent vultures, meaning no disrespect to the deceased.
At first I was disappointed. Rows of seeming junk sat on the grass getting wetter every minute under soft drizzle. I might have gone home had I not spotted the pink desk lamp my daughter wanted. I nabbed it for a buck. The more I stayed, the more I saw, and the more I wondered about the man whose estate this was. "Jack," he had been called. Stereos, speakers, microphones, a four-track cassette recorder, synthesizers, an electric guitar, MIDI controller, cables and cables, multimeters, at least one oscillator, radio and telegraph devices, boxes with switches and plugs whose function I didn't understand, and tools upon tools were spread throughout the eclectica. "This guy was quite the hobbyist!" I couldn't help but say.
He was also someone who wanted to take care of his property, judging by the automotive products, trimmers, lawn mowers, seed spreader, and pruners. His movie and music collections had nothing dirty or (in my opinion) poor taste and were found in VHS, DVD, CD, cassette, and vinyl forms. (Oddly he had multiple sets of Anne of Green Gables.) His books ranged from chemistry and math texts to Calvin and Hobbes to Ronald Reagan biographies and piano books and hymnals. "Gladys" was engraved on one of those hymnals. His wife, perhaps?
And to my slow belief, there was a pair of over-ear headphones that said "SENNHEISER HD 280 pro" on the side. I listened carefully for the auctioneer to get to them, hoping none of the other buyers would pay attention.
Clyde wasn't a hobbyist like Jack, but he was his own jack-of-all-trades and master of insurance. The latter business laid his nest egg while he also repaired cars, learned Tae Kwon Do, cooked food he liked, piloted his single-engine Cessna - and wrote songs. Some of these songs were sung at his memorial service. Not long afterward, his wife sat in an armchair and sang a few into a tape recorder.
That cassette lay in a box of mine for years as well as a manila envelope full of Clyde's lyric sheets. In 2015 I finally overdubbed her voice with a piano track and converted the audio to digital. I did this because, of course, they were the songs of my grandfather. Every melody was telltale of when he came of age. They seem to spring from the soil of military marches and mid-century hymns, yet I can see how in another generation they could turn into Maranatha songs. They were all praise songs. And though they sound dated now, they were the sincere, complete, and catchy psalms of a man who came to love Jesus after a mid-life repentance.
Granddaddy and Grandmama left us in their mere sixties, much too much too soon. My mom gave me his songs in the hopes not just of saving them but of someday notating the melodies and adding harmony. As I bent over the piano working on one of the songs, I suddenly imagined a descendant of mine doing the same for me. Not so much for the merit of my work, maybe, but for the place I would hold in his or her history. The notion was wonderful. Granddaddy has better things to think about right now, but if I could go back and tell him I would keep his songs, I think I understand how he would feel.
After I got home from the auction, Jack's obituary revealed to me that he had died a childless bachelor. Gladys had been his mother. Not much close family was named, though there were two nephews. Jack's nephews may have preserved mementos I don't know about. In case not, he has an entry in my journal and a blog post here.
And, I have his Sennheiser 280 Pro headphones.
They helped me edit one of Granddaddy's songs.
Note: Grandmama never supposed I'd put her voice on the Internet, so I debated whether to do so. She sang with neither accompaniment nor studio conditions to speak of. In the end, I decided that sharing a part of Granddaddy and Grandmama was worth it.