BARBARA SHELLY

Life seems much richer when ‘later’ becomes now

Updated: 2014-01-05T00:10:13Z

By BARBARA SHELLY

The Kansas City Star

Last year around this time I wrote a column about resuming piano lessons after a layoff of, oh, about 40 years, during which time I repeatedly assured myself that I’d resume my interrupted youthful passion “later.”

I mentioned my 15-minute rule, which is that almost anybody can find a quarter of an hour in their day to do something they really care about. Then you see where things go from there.

That seemed to, well, strike a chord. I started hearing from readers far and wide who had taken up old and new pursuits. One friend said I had inspired him to renew home brewing — a feat of which I am unaccountably proud.

But most of my correspondents had stories about music.

“When I married my first husband, we did not have a piano,” wrote Angela Traynor, of Overland Park. “I had lived with a piano my entire life, and had not even been aware how much I would miss it. It was a physical ache.”

After a 30-year absence, Traynor took up piano again, and in fact became a teacher.

She told me this week that the piano got her through the emotional stress of caring for her seriously ill mother, and then losing her last month.

“As a child, I hated practicing piano,” she said. “But my mom played piano, and even as young as I was, I could see what it meant to her. I knew that whatever she found in piano, I wanted that for myself.”

John Philpot of Liberty, a retired physics professor at William Jewell University, emailed me last year with a “little story about 50 years of piano and my resolve to master book two.”

After a couple of attempts at piano lessons as a kid “didn’t take,” Philpot acquired a beat-up old baby grand at age 28.

“I took the finish down to bare wood, stained and finished it, hired a technician to fix some keys, tune it, and whatever else to render it playable,” he reported.

In the 50 years since, he has possessed two additional pianos and a clavinova. Life has a way of intervening, however, and when he wrote to me last year, Philpot was still working on book two of his piano lesson series. “I finished book one 20 years ago,” he said. He also said he had passed his original baby grand off to a daughter, and he regretted not rebuilding the action function, the system of levers that move the felt hammers.

When I checked in with him, Philpot, 78, had good news. He has made it through book two. “I can actually play most things in it, but not very well, and I am enjoying going over them again,” he said.

Even better, Philpot reclaimed his old baby grand and hired a technician to rebuild the action. “It plays well for such an old beast,” he said.

Jeff Glauner, of Platte Woods, got in touch a year ago to let me know he’d been persuaded by a 94-year-old fiddler to learn to play the fiddle he inherited from his grandfather at age 12.

For more than half a century, he promised himself and his mother he would learn to play. He finally did, and was able to play for his mom and her friends at her assisted living center. “It didn’t sound wonderful, but my mother was thrilled,” Glauner said. She died a month later.

Since then, Glauner has joined the Gower Goodtimers, an amateur music group. They play on Friday nights and frequently at residences for senior citizens.

“I figure I have about a quarter of a century of music left in me, and I intend to enjoy it and provide others with a little enjoyment as well,” Glauner said.

As for me, I’m still playing piano and loving it. My 15 minutes of practice a day usually turns into more like an hour, and I wonder what I did with my time when I thought I was too busy to resume piano lessons.

As Philpot put it, “Later is here and now.” And some things are just too precious to be consigned to “later.”

To reach Barbara Shelly, call 816-234-4594 or send email to bshelly@kcstar.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/bshelly.

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