An extremely generous Mother's Day gift

May 8, 2011 • Posted in Beth Finke, blindness, Mike Knezovich, parenting a child with special needs, Uncategorized by

With a last name like Knezovich, you’d think Mike would love accordion music.

But alas, he does not.

About a year ago, the F sharp key on my accordion got stuck. Every time I’d squeeze the squeeze box, it’d play F sharp. Which would be fine if any of the tunes in my accordion repertoire were in F sharp. None are.

Mike did not weep when I told him last year that my accordion was broken. I was near tears, though, when he dialed the number for the “Buttons and Keys” division at Andy’s Music Chicago yesterday and handed me the phone. “See if they can fix your accordion,” he said. “I’ll drive you there on our way to get groceries.”

Mike may not like accordion much, but our son Gus does. The one thing Gus has always enjoyed, the one thing that motivates him and, at times, soothes him, is…music. Hip hop, jazz, new age, Cajun, punk, country & western, African…even accordion. If it’s music, Gus loves it.

Gus was born with a genetic disorder that left him physically and mentally disabled. Mike and I didn’t know a whole lot about music therapy when Gus was young, but our love of music rubbed off on our son. From the time Mike met me, he has always seen to it that we have a piano in the house. When I started losing my sight, I was also losing the ability to do things on my own — I couldn’t drive anymore, had trouble reading print, I tripped over curbs. Recognizing how important it was for me to learn to do something new, Mike went to a second-hand store and bought me a fiddle. It only took one year of screechy lessons to convince me to sell my fiddle. Earnings from the sale went towards paying a graduate student to teach me to play my piano by ear. Gus would lie across my lap as I practiced.

My former fiddle teacher recommended me to a local old-time string ban that needed a piano player. I passed the audition, and I arranged for the band to practice at our house for Gus’ sake. I started experimenting with jazz, surprising my traditional string band with an occasional flat five or minor seventh. They tolerated it.

They tolerated a lot, really. When I first joined, “Oh, Susanna” was the only old-time tune I knew. I brought my handheld tape recorder to every practice, listening and registering at home to differentiate and memorize their repertoire. At gigs, my memory would fail me. I had to be reminded what key every tune was in. And instead of the traditional eye movement or foot kick to signify song endings, the lead musician yelled “last time!” loudly enough for me to hear over my playing. I didn’t know it, but practices and performances served as therapy — I’d pound out chords when I was angry, play painfully slow on melancholy days.

Sequestered at home with a newborn, I practiced a lot.

Our old-time string band was successful enough to garner gigs outside in the summer. I couldn’t carry an upright piano with me, so I taught myself to play the accordion. Poor Mike. Who would have guessed that his thoughtful notion to buy me a used fiddle would lead to a lifetime listening to polkas on the accordion?

Good ol' Gus.

Mike and I couldn’t get away this weekend to visit Gus in his group home in Wisconsin, but that’s okay. Gus doesn’t understand that today is Mother’s Day, so we’ll just go up next weekend and celebrate Mother’s Day then. As always, it will be great just to be with him. Gus doesn’t have a piano in his group home, but if “Buttons and Keys” gets that F sharp key fixed, thanks to Mike’s generous Mother’s Day gift, maybe I’ll bring my accordion.

Bob On May 8, 2011 at 9:52 am

I linked to that music store — it looks cool. Not sure if I should hope they fix your accordion, though — not a fan of that sort of music myself.

Jill On May 8, 2011 at 10:21 am

Happy mother’s day, Bethie!

Maria On May 8, 2011 at 10:25 am

I hope that key gets fixed….what a wonderful Mother’s Day gift. That’s quite a guy you have there (I mean Mike, not Gus or Harper, although they’re amazing also)

Sandra On May 8, 2011 at 10:45 am

Happy Mother’s Day!

Steve On May 8, 2011 at 11:40 am

Happy Mother’s Day, Beth, and a hat off to Mike for being so thoughtful and meaningful. My wife has battled numerous disabilities for the last twenty-plus years and it is always so gratifying to be able to find gifts that truly mean something. She was always a hoot to give gifts to, but now it’s so much more exciting to surprise and please at the same time. Good job, Mike. By the way, the last Mike blog was very entertaining as well! You are a couple after my own heart.

bethfinke On May 10, 2011 at 8:05 am

Wow, what a flattering comment. I’ll pass your good words on to Mike, and thank you so much for taking the time to write, your note makes me feel good!

nancyb On May 8, 2011 at 4:22 pm

wow you need to bring that to Urbana sometime! Have a great trip to see Gus next weekend.

bethfinke On May 10, 2011 at 8:07 am

I’ll have to buy a case for it first –I’d be quite a sight climbing onto the Amtrak train with that thing on my chest. Visions of “Some Like it Hot”?!

nancyb On May 10, 2011 at 9:32 pm

oh, one of Gladys’ favorite movies for sure. I’m sure you’d liven up the train!

The Empty Pen On May 9, 2011 at 9:29 am

I hope the accordian gets fixed in time for you to play for Gus!

Bill Might On May 9, 2011 at 9:37 am

Reminds me of: “my neighbor came pounding on my door at 3:30 this morning—good thing I was still up playing my accordion”

Mike On May 9, 2011 at 10:30 am

Bill–I’m sure Beth will be happy to regale you and Pam when you visit your old stomping grounds. Miss you both.

bethfinke On May 10, 2011 at 8:09 am

Oh, Bill, I can just hear you telling that joke. I bet you and Pam both are kicking yourselves for ever leaving Chicago now that I’ll have my squeeze box back…!

Audrey Mitchell On May 9, 2011 at 10:01 am

Great idea for Mother’s Day. You should play for us (the writing group) sometimes. Happy Mother’s Day!

Annelore Chapin On May 9, 2011 at 3:41 pm

thank you for talking about Gus….I had wondered what had happened to him and was afraid to ask. Well, I don’t know you well enough really. And I am glad that Gus is around and in a good place.

So, a little late: Happy Mother’s Day, I hope you had a great day.


bethfinke On May 10, 2011 at 8:13 am

Annelore, thanks for your good wishes about Gus. I need to remember to tell folks he is still doing well — every semester a class of students from DePaul University come to visit me in our apartment after having read “Long Time, No See” and I’ve learned to start off my presentation by telling them that Gus is still alive and living in a group home. They are curious about Gus but like you, they, too, are afraid to ask. We’ll see Gus this Saturday, looking forward to that. Thanks for the good wishes —

becky On May 11, 2011 at 11:49 pm

What a sweet story. Hope you have a great journey to visit your son.

I said I’d do what? « Safe & Sound blog On July 16, 2012 at 8:13 am

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