Growing up I learned how to play the piano. I started lessons at age six, but I was pounding out songs on the keys before that by ear. My parents supported this love of mine, even in times when I didn’t love it myself. And believe me, there were those times. Practicing was not my favorite. Playing what others told me to play was not my favorite. But I loved the feel of the keys at my fingertips. I lived for the times I could sit down on that bench and just play what filled my soul, what touched my heart, what brought me joy.
But the best thing ever was when my father joined me and we played duet. He knew one song, “Heart and Soul.” Most are familiar with this song from the film, “Big” starring Tom Hanks where his character plays the song on a giant keyboard in the F.A.O. Schwarz toy store in New York City. My dad and I only had the regular sized, old piano to play, but I had taught him the single hand melody line and I would play the slightly more complicated accompaniment.
My dad, as I mentioned yesterday, was not an instrumentalist. I think he really wanted to be and so he lived vicariously through my lessons and work and the music I created sitting at the keys. He often would ask me to just play something for him. He had his favorites but he would stand motionless beside the piano and listen to me play, taking it all in, often humming along or singing the words if the song had lyrics.
So when I taught him his part of “Heart and Soul,” he was thrilled to play with me. It was, for him, as if we were performing on the Carnegie Hall stage every time we would sit down together and cover this song. Over the years, we perfected our duet. We came up with all sorts of variations to each of our parts. We’d play it slow and fast and then change keys. We’d often perform for family members and some close friends. He LOVED it… and so did I.
Did I mind playing the same song over and over again for years? Absolutely not. The truth, it was my favorite thing to play. Because, once again, it was precious time with this man who was often a mystery to me in many other ways.
Looking back now I think to myself how blessed I am to have this memory and how fitting it was that it was this particular song we shared and that it was a duet. Of course it would be. “Heart and Soul,” the ultimate duet. It is literally impossible to have a heart without a soul or a soul without a heart. God’s divine design.
With the heart problems my dad suffered with throughout the last 18 years of his life, I often worried about his soul. I think he struggled with this often himself. He had a restless spirit inside. He had not yet settled with God and he was uneasy. But somehow, when we shared our connection of music he seemed to settle. At least for a time there was peace.
Our hearts and souls were in their own duet as we played as well. When one duets with another, the key is to listen to each other so both remain in time with one another. If one rushes or one lags behind, it ruins the entire song. As he settled, as our hearts and souls intertwined, as our fingers tickled the ivories and we made music together, we found a place where we could listen to each other. Something difficult for the both of us to do. We didn’t use words, but the music gave us the freedom to express ourselves to each other, opening our hearts and souls so that we could, in our own way, share the love we both held for each other. It was a sacred place for us. The piano bench was a place of safety, security and peace… a place I always wanted to be. Especially when it included my father sitting by my side, looking proud as he mastered his part of our only duet. That, that is what filled my soul, touched my heart, and brought me joy.
I miss my duet partner. I remember coming home for the first time after he passed away and the first thing I did was sit down at my piano. I sat in silence for the longest time. Just thinking. Running my fingers across the keys. And then I played. I played our song. This time playing his part. For years, I had played the supportive notes to his melody, but in that moment I think my heart needed to feel that his melody would continue on. So I played his part instead. For him and in honor of him. And I play still, from time to time. And no matter how many times I play the song by myself, I never feel alone. I still feel my dad sitting with me, proud to play our duet. That piano bench, it’s still our special place.
LYRICS – Courtesy, Google Play
Heart and soul, I fell in love with you
Heart and soul, the way a fool would do, madly
Because you held me tight
And stole a kiss in the night
Heart and soul, I begged to be adored
Lost control, and tumbled overboard, gladly
That magic night we kissed
There in the moon mist
Oh! but your lips were thrilling, much too thrilling
Never before were mine so strangely willing
But now I see, what one embrace can do
Look at me, it’s got me loving you madly
That little kiss you stole
Held all my heart and soul