Thursday, September 24, 2009


While I was in Manitoba I got to visit two people who are huge inspirations for my life, musically and otherwise. They both happen to be named "Susie"... although I know them best as "grandma."

I remember as a child hearing Grandma Suderman - the most quiet and gentle and unassuming homemade-buns-and-noodle-soup-making grandma imaginable - telling what sounded to me like incredibly exotic stories about traveling to Mexico - Mexico! - as a girl. And talking about how she used to play the guitar. My grandma, playing the guitar? I never saw it, never heard it, but somehow the incongruity of that image fascinated me and fascinates me still.

Now she lives in Salem Home, receiving wonderful care, and because of her dementia she doesn't recognize people (didn't recognize me), and aside from initial bursts that are usually right on the money, she doesn't put words together in a way that makes sense to the rest of us. But she smiles and giggles and can still get off a zinger (like when I asked her if she likes to go for walks and she said "Sure" and then pointed at my dad and said "He doesn't!" and we all started laughing uncontrollably).

And my Grandma Goertzen (formerly Penner... nee Neufeld) is still going strong at age 87, puts her CDs on and listens to music first thing in the morning and got pretty darned frustrated when the cleaning person bumped some buttons and messed up the settings so she couldn't listen to music for THREE WHOLE DAYS! Grandma retired 5 years ago after playing the piano and organ for worship at the Winkler Bergthaler Church nearly every Sunday for 65 years... yes, you read that right... and conducting innumerable Ladies Choirs, German Choirs, Senior Choirs, Childrens Choirs, Christmas Choirs... and when she and grandpa used to go down to Arizona for the winters she'd organize choirs of "snowbirds" to conduct down there.

As a child I was always fascinated by the fact that she played the piano and accordion with the pinky finger on one hand cut off at the second knuckle... a childhood injury that never slowed her down. I'm proud to say I still have her accordion (bought for her by her dad, K.H. Neufeld, at a used music store in Winnipeg sometime in the 40s)... and as you can hear on the zydeco tune "How Do You Know?" on the new CD, it's still getting used (although I want to play it more).

Grandma Goertzen came to my concert in Altona... the first time she's seen me "do my thing" now that this is "what I do"... and that was a special and emotional moment for me...

Thank you, grandmas. I want to be like you.

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