Spirts at the Blind Tiger: Signs & Superstition 2

Charlene told me Beth’s old music group was playing at the Blind Tiger on Tuesday evening, June 17th. Sometime after they began, Tim suggested they play Beth’s Waltz.  But Beth hadn’t played with them for a long while and no one could remember the tune. (Link to Blind Tiger Pub )

Blind Tiger is slang for an illegal drinking establishment.

They played their fiddle tunes and country dance music, the usual repertoire.  There were spirits enough to go around at the pub, but during prohibition customers would pay to see such animal curiosities and receive a “complimentary” drink.

The night before the gig, Beth had trouble breathing and had been coughing a lot.  So she saw the doctor the next day.  After dinner, she lay down for the evening, held Tiffany’s hand and smiled at her, making humorous expressions, grateful for her loving care.

After the musicians began their first set, Beth’s Waltz came into Johanna’s head.  She told the others and played the melody which Charlene had composed.

They played Beth’s song throughout the evening and they remembered it at the same time that Beth took her last breath.

June 17, 2014

Beth’s spirit was in the Blind Tiger that night and maybe her friends were with her too.  She left this worldly existence, smiling and grateful.  And she left with song

Composed by Charlene Thomson for her friend Beth

A few years ago, Beth told my daughter Cara to bring her violin on her next visit.  Beth loved to play instruments and this was her latest and last musical endeavor.  Fiddle is a violin and refers to the type of music played, old-timey stuff like folk and bluegrass.

Itzhak Perlman plays violin; Beth played fiddle.

One evening she instructed Cara to get her fiddle so they could play. Cara shared music from school, but grandma had something else in mind.  She gave her a fiddle book and then she opened up another violin case.  She walked to where I sat in the recliner and handed me a fiddle.

I have played piano since I was five and I played violin but only through high school.  I had not played the violin for over 20 years.  I declined, explaining that I couldn’t remember the fingering or the bowing or even the strings.

Beth didn’t move.  She was a force to be reckoned with and her physical strength mirrored her personal strength.

I shrugged. Took the fiddle from her and set up a music stand.  I can read music and fiddle music is simpler than my piano music.

Cara played well enough and I managed the finger positions but had trouble with the fourth finger.  Beth didn’t care.  She told me fiddlers could play open strings.  She told us to make mistakes, have fun.

We played oldies like Angeline the Baker, Amazing Grace with harmony, and Shady Grove.

We played for hours, sitting in her living room, three fiddlers from three generations, not putting the fiddles away until close to midnight.  I have not forgotten that evening.  I see my daughter, her grandmother, and my reflection in the window, connected through music, through love.

It was magic.

My husband shook his head, astonished.  He kept saying, “I didn’t know you could play violin.”

I didn’t know I could play either.

Beth did though.  She believed in us and she knew we could.

Cara played fiddle on stage for her sister who danced an Irish jig the next year.

Both of us played with Beth’s brother during a jam session after the funeral.  I played with Beth’s music group this weekend.

And together Charlene and I played Beth’s Waltz.

I wished I played with Beth and her group when she was alive.  But I thank her.  For her spirit, the “fiddles” and most of all, the love.

** For the not so superstitious, read earlier letter Signs, Superstition, & Life.

About mylinhshattan

MyLinh B. Shattan is a writer who has worked in the private sector, taught at college, and served in the U.S. Army. She holds a B.S. in Mathematics from West Point, an M.B.A. from Florida Southern College, and an M.F.A. in Writing from Queens University.