My dad used to postulate that perhaps some things skipped a generation. Of course, he was at least two generations older than me, nearly 43 years old when I was born, so I would always get confused just trying to do the math. But then, generation gaps were always a point of great confusion for the greater Moore collective. Some of us are older than our own uncles or second cousins. Some of us have more years apart from our siblings than from our parents.
Dad and his own dad–Grampa–meanwhile, were so close in age that, story goes, Nana used to joke that they were basically growing up together. It was such a stark contrast to my own situation that I don’t think I could really comprehend the nature of their relationship.
In that sense, Grampa was always a bit of a mystery to me, but if some things do skip a generation (or two, depending on your math), then it stood to reason that we were bound to have some common ground (beyond the legendary “Moore mouth,” which I’ve long asserted is a thing).
Well, the visual aid may not be much of an aid, but I swear I see it. For contrast, here’s a non-Moore mouth:
It can be hard to strike a point of like interest with someone when you’re several generations and several states apart, but as I became increasingly self-aware as a teenager, I found the silences between us less and less forgivable. “Come on, Greg, you can speak to adults. Here’s one you should speak to.”
I’m not sure exactly when I realized it, but we eventually found our gap-bridging commonality through music. The episode that I’ll never forget came at about age fifteen, when the family was having one of its semi-regular sessions of phone relay with Grampa on the other end. It so happened that at this time, I’d been practicing a lot of jazz piano, and before I even had a chance to create an awkward silence, Dad suggested that I play a song for Grampa. I figured he probably didn’t want to hear about the travails of a tenth-grader anyhow, so I was relieved for the suggestion, if not a little self-conscious.
The song I played was Brubeck’s “Take Five,” not at all known as a piano piece nor a particularly emotional one, but it was enough, reportedly, to move Grampa to tears. When I say “reportedly,” I mean he told me himself.
No one can say exactly what Grampa was feeling in that moment, but I wonder if it wasn’t the bridging of an inexorably large gap, if only for a moment. It’s easy enough to show love to your progeny when they’re little and cute, but this was different. It was an adult showing of emotional investment in me, and not just a turning point for my relationship with Grampa, but for my perception of adulthood, family, and legacy.
Not to overreact. But when interaction is as infrequent as it was, you can’t afford to overlook the value of individual moments.
Thereafter, Grampa and I were never lacking for a topic of discussion. On family visits, we would talk jazz. I’d play him my latest attempt, he’d tell me about the prodigious talent of Erroll Garner.
“He had these long fingers that would curl way up like this,” he’d say.”
“Hey, I’ve got some of those!” I’d say, flashing him my fingers with pride. “Eh? Eh?”
“Oh yeah, look at those!” he’d say, impressed. Genghis Khan never knew such triumph. Kublai, on the other hand, may have.
The last time I saw Grampa was the day after his 90th birthday. While everyone else was out for a few hours (I forget why), Grampa and I stayed behind and talked music. I plunked out some old tunes on his ancient synthesizer while he occasionally sighed with approval. The preciousness of this time was not lost on me. In Grampa’s long life, wildly different from my own, I’m awed and grateful for each moment that our thinking intersected. Thanks for the lessons, Grampa. They won’t be forgotten.