My grandfather never fulfilled his deepest wish. He had an accomplished life, but in this he was a failure.
Grandpa Wayne was a man with many interests that varied from industrial processes to the history of the Boxer Rebellion and astronomy. He was intensely well read. And while he preferred mostly economics books or dry historical fictions, in his waning years he fell into W.E.B. Griffin. When it came to music he was mostly a jazz-man with a soft spot for the Glenn Miller orchestra (which he believed to be the hight of popular music). But of all these things, non was paralleled by the deep passion he felt for the works of Ludwig Von Beethoven.
Once, as a favor from a business associate, he was given tickets to a program of Beethoven pieces performed by the London Philharmonic at the Royal Albert. He told me about this when I was about seventeen and he was in the middle of his first serious encounter with morphine. He was a pious man, but his descriptions of religion were nothing like when he recounted his experience at the Royal Albert. It was like listening to a Hajji speak of Mecca. He seemed transformed.
When he told me his deepest wish, it was during his last year. He was not well that day and was lying in bed. But he wanted to talk to me. And he told me a story:
There was this man I knew through some business contacts. He was an Israeli minister of state. A big shot. This man loved classical music and was a big supporter of the arts. One year he organized a big classical music festival. At the height of the program, he got on stage, and proceeded to conduct the orchestra himself. He didn’t have any training, he had just memorized the motions.
My grandfather looked so small in his bed as he told his story. “I’ve always wanted to do that,” he said. “I never had much talent with music other than singing, and after my stroke I couldn’t even do that.”
“I just want to know what it feels like to lead a great orchestra, even if it was just going through the motions.”