“Mom, I don’t want to play clarinet! It is for girls!” I remember yelling at my Mother as I prepped for band my middle school years. We were poor growing up and the only option I had to afford an instrument and be in band was to use the hand-me down clarinet. My Grandmother had spent a decent amount of money when my Mother was the same age as I was then on a Buffet Crampon. For whatever reason I had associated some sexuality to all wind instruments and as such considered this suggestion from Mom an attack on my very blossoming manhood.
I never truly embraced the instrument until a visit to Tennessee. I suppose my Mother had spoken to my Grandfather or maybe I had mentioned it, but he proceeded to ask me about my liquorice stick playing. “Liquorice stick?” I had never heard my female centric clarinet called that. “Oh yes, Benny Goodman played a liquorice stick like no ones business.” Grandpa Hardie then proceeded to play a few big band songs where my much despised clarinet was central to the song. I had never heard music like that and I immediately latched onto it. My Grandfather gave me a love for the music and an identity for this instrument I never would have found on my own. He taught me that day, and many others, that being a cool guy was more about owning the role than what others thought about it.
There are countless other memories of my Grandfather I could share. Westerns, Cheezits, growing up in the hills of Kentucky poor, etc. But I will always cherish knowing my Grandfather was the guy who instilled in me a sense of charm and wit. He had a certain demeanour that always oozed a sense of calm and untroubledness that I have attempted to replicate in my adult life.
I have struggled to put in words the feelings of losing him this week. One of our last lucid conversations was him telling me about his life being complete. “I have done everything I wanted and I am ready.” He knew more than I did his time was coming to a close. He never wanted some big thing on his passing. His wish was for everyone to be happy and joyous for the amazing life he lived. No man is without faults or shortcomings, but I hope I can replicate, in addition to his composed charm, being able to close that chapter of my life in the same dignified and polished manner.
I bought another “liquorice stick” just like the one I grew up with. A Buffet Crampon E11 made in Germany. His passing reminded me that we all need a little jazz and big band in our lives. Grandpa danced to many a Benny Goodman songs in his life with a giant smile on his face. When I play and when I think of him, that is the memory I want to be present in my mind for him.
I will miss you Grandpa.