89: My Piano Man

89: My Piano Man

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

My Piano Man

Where there is great love, there are always miracles.

~Willa Cather

As I moved into my mid-thirties, still single, I couldn’t deny that I still hoped to get married. A decade earlier, a man I loved had ended our relationship because he didn’t feel ready for a marriage commitment.

Brokenhearted, I had moved away and undertaken new challenges that included mission service and graduate school. Always, somewhere, I also had the opportunity to play piano for church. Then my parents died within months of each other, and my life screeched to a stop. My only sibling, my sister, was swamped with a young family and a small business that was a four-hour drive from our parents’ home. So I dropped out of graduate school and moved home to settle affairs and empty the very full three-bedroom house.

Some days, I felt nearly overwhelmed by the memories as I doggedly cleaned out closets and drawers. When I needed a break, I’d go to the family piano, a dinosaur upright that for decades had been a fixture in my parents’ dining room. Sliding onto its wobbly bench, I’d open a hymnbook and sing old favorites.

Now, like everything else, the piano needed to go. Because I’d been working my way through graduate school across the country, I had minimized my belongings. I couldn’t keep it. My sister and I agreed that she should inherit it so that her young children could learn piano.

The day my sister and husband moved the piano out, I felt like I’d lost an old friend. The dining room wall looked so stark with the piano gone. As I vacuumed up decades of dust, I thought about that man I had loved. I hadn’t heard from him since we broke up. I presumed he had found someone else to marry.

But life had to go on. Months later, the house emptied, I returned to graduate school 2,000 miles away from my family “roots” — and from “him.” Though at times I longed for a piano of my own, I always had access to one — a college practice room, the church I attended, even upstairs from a basement bedroom I rented for a few months.

Still, I struggled with being single in my mid-thirties. I hadn’t dated in years. But now, launching into a career, I had new goals to pursue. I wasn’t prepared for the phone call that came one brisk March afternoon. I’d been getting a lot of wrong numbers lately, thanks to a popular girl at a nearby university having my number mistakenly listed as hers in the school directory.

But this time the man calling wanted to talk to me.

“This is Rich Zornes,” he said. “Do you remember me?”

Remember him? It had been eight years! I had never expected to hear from him again. My knees buckled, and I slid to the floor. Through mutual friends, he had gotten my phone number. Now nearly thirty-six, he hoped I would consider renewing our friendship. Our calls, correspondence, and a visit moved toward a marriage proposal. His parents were thrilled and had a special wedding gift in mind.

The living room in my soon-to-be husband’s meagerly furnished home had an empty wall. They had something that had sat unused since their last daughter married and left home. And so, in the flurry of wedding week preparations, came their gift offer: their piano.

~Jeanne Zornes

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