Doug phoned me about 5 years ago, out of the blue, inquiring about piano lessons. I had not known him before that call and the beginning of our association centered around piano playing and music. Fairly quickly, we began to chit chat before and after lesson time and I soon made sure to schedule the next student later and later so we’d have enough time to talk of this and that.
As you would guess, Doug was very upbeat about his lessons. He was enormously organized with his time and dedicated to his practice schedule. You might recall his love of electronic gadgets? Well, apparently he set timers on his smartwatch to remind him to practice piano twice a day, 45 minutes each session. I was blown away—I’ve never had a student commit so thoroughly and certainly not to twice a day! He made such good progress, I kind of wanted to make him my poster child for how much an “older” beginner could accomplish.
Over time, Doug shared some of his writings with me. And I hesitantly shared some of mine with him. It was largely at his urging that I finally joined this writers group… thanks, Doug.
I had asked him a few times where certain of his story ideas came from and it was always interesting to hear him talk a little about his process. Case in point: one day during his lesson time he heard my son’s girlfriend giggling in the next room. And within a week or two, he brought me an early draft of a new story he said her giggles had inspired: “Krasnaya Tripalosky.” My son, his girlfriend, piano playing—none of this appeared in the story of two ventriloquists in love with the same person, but something about the giggles behind that closed door had started him on a trail to this story.
When the pandemic kept us all apart, Doug continued weekly piano lessons on Zoom until he was too weak to sit at the piano for very long. We then continued to “meet” anyway just to chat and share our lives. He was amazingly gracious even then, listening to me confess my doubts about my life, music, and writing. All the while, he remained uncomplaining and dignified as his own life was waning. And like a good Dutch uncle, Doug would cut to the chase with a firm but loving, “Just do it.”
Doug was a generous soul, quickly and warmly extending his hand in friendship to so many of us. I sure do miss him.