As Stephen Colbert might ask, with one eyebrow earnestly raised, “Great graffiti. . . or greatest graffiti ever?”
Marching band season began with a meeting and rehearsal last night. This will be my 10th season as a band mom. Jim was both the unofficial band doctor and an official band photographer. He tremendously enjoyed both roles, and left me with an archive of thousands of photographs from marching band and concert band seasons.
Invariably, Memorial Day would be unbearably humid–worst at parade time, as the marchers gathered in clusters and practiced in a steaming parking lot. Band members’ discomfort would be heightened–if not made intolerable–by their long-sleeved black uniforms. Jim would walk along briskly, both his doctor’s bag and his camera bag slung over his right shoulder.
At parades, from careful past observation he knew when he had to stand guard at a particular corner. For example, he deduced the precise spot where, rounding a sharp corner, one flutist reliably would fade to white, crumple, and need to be taken out of the lineup for hydration.
Jim has driven a truck with percussion equipment from Florida to New Hampshire. It broke down mid-way, just as the Percussion Ensemble bus once did en route to Ohio.
During one week he helped chaperone an enormous band and choir trip. Among the casualties was a percussionist who was hit by a car while charging toward the bus. The percussionist was fine; in fact, for the remainder of the trip he was surrounded by several lovely young ladies who would push his temporary wheelchair to the front of the line at park rides.
But after doing his quick assessment of the percussionist, Jim had to devote quite a bit of effort to talking down the terrified staff members who’d witnessed the near carnage. He also was entrusted with breaking the news by telephone to the percussionist’s mother, and with giving follow-up medical reports. As always, he did such things in his calm, measured way.
I never once heard him panic.
At the conclusion of one band trip, Jim told me that the staff had a new proactive rule: no break-ups while travelling. (Among the casualties on that front were a wall and a hand, as one ardent young man had put a fist through a hotel wall after being cast aside.)
One of our last family trips in New Hampshire was on a frigid December night: the band director had been voted the best music teacher in the state and had an opportunity to guest conduct the Boston Pops. Jim was so glad to be able to see and hear that. (Only a few hours after we returned home, at about 3:00 in the morning, we all left for Jim’s dream trip.)
And, as I said at Jim’s Closing Ceremonies, the last place we went where he wanted to go was less than two weeks before he died, when our sons helped him get to a daughter’s winter guard performance in Maine. The last photographs he took were taken there.
We spent so many nights together as a family on the band field (where performances occasionally were punctuated by the breaking out of a football game), from the dog days of August band camp to cold-to-the-bone November nights. We all have a lasting family in and from this band.
My unflappable spouse was a calming presence in any crisis, and it gave him great joy to watch the band perform. Both we and our children have made wonderful friends through their involvement in making music.
The music this band director and percussion ensemble director brought into our lives always has been breathtaking. Listening to it, we felt we had (indirectly) accomplished something of great beauty–at very least through the sheer number of musically gifted children we somehow managed to contribute to this one band.
The band dedicated a bench to Jim shortly after he died. Given Jim’s decision to donate his body to his medical school , this bench is a physical memorial we can visit–and it is just as he would have wanted, surrounded by green, with daffodils blooming around it in warmer months. It is a place from which one can think of Jim by looking up to the sky, not down.
The bench is a place of rest: it faces the field where our children have spent thousands of hours rehearsing and we have spent hundreds of hours assisting. Amid all the bustle of students rushing around it, someone can take a moment to sit, to contemplate, to enjoy being outside–and to hear the music as the band rehearses.
I saw the bench last night, after coming out of the band parents’ meeting. I ran my finger across his name, on a plaque which bears two treble clefs and the inscription “In Musical Memory of Dr. Jim Glennon.”
Then I noticed someone had left an extra message on Jim’s bench, facing the plaque at a jaunty angle, and I smiled.
(c) 2012 Stephanie M. Glennon