Frank Glazer

This story was first created in 2010. My uncle, Frank Glazer, was 95 years old, was still concertizing, still teaching at Bates College. He was a world-renown pianist, having performed with major symphonies all over the world. He studied with Artur Schnabel, gave the Carnegie Hall debut of Stravinsky’s Piano Concerto and in his later years practiced from 4-6 hours a day. 

In 2012, Frank appeared on The Story, an American Public Media show out of North Carolina that has since ended. Host Dick Gordon interviewed Frank on March 2. The audio from the show is below.

On Jan. 13, 2015, at approximately 1:15 a.m., Frank died at the age of 99, just weeks away from his 100th birthday when he had scheduled six concerts in four states. 

Photograph by Phyllis Graber Jensen, Bates College

The Journey (1) -- Train

Who doesn't have a story about a train?

And when we hear these sounds, those stories come alive:

My story is this.

Flip back in time to July 5, 1983. Five other men and I are about to begin what will become a 50-day, 800-mile canoe trip into the center of Quebec wilderness, then north to the sub-arctic region of Ungava Bay. We intend to follow the route NOT taken by a Hudson Bay Company explorer in 1620. He did not take our route because the passage was considered too dangerous -- almost constant rapids and drops.

We take the train from Sept Iles, proceed north on the edge of Labrador and then, at a spot agreed upon with the engineer, the train stops and we unload our canoes, food and gear. Everyone gets out. Mostly the train is carrying Montagnais and Naskapi -- small, nomadic Cree tribes -- and Inuit. They are alternately confused, amused, respectful of the six white men with a strange language who are embarking on this journey. They are friendly. They have given us information on the rivers and territory using drawings and maps. They wish us luck by gesture. The engineer and conductor and brakeman all shake our hands, and everyone gets back on the train. Except us.

We watch as the train gains motion and then momentum and pulls away north, up a slight slant to the left, then, as it approaches a corner to the right, we hear, in the distance, the double whistle blast, a goodbye, as the train and its red lights on the last car disappear into the wilderness. We are left to the lonely silence of our thoughts as we turn and look to the edge of the lake that will begin our journey.

We set about to make camp and supper.

The Journey (2) -- Bears

July 5, 1983. Somewhere in the Labrador wilderness on the edge of a lake, on the edge of the railroad tracks.

With the last blare of the train whistle a memory, we set about pitching three tents, making a cook area and getting the canoes down by the water. It is fairly flat, scrub alders and a few tall tamaracks.

We six had been jammed together in two pickups for the three days it took us to get to Sept Iles to the train north. Along the way we had all picked up colds or some kind of stomach thing, though that may have been from any one of the restaurants along the way, ingloriously named Restaurant #547 or Restaurant #2308. All dreadful. So in the pickups and for most of the train ride, we had hunkered down in our seats in silence and rested our bodies and prepared our minds for what lay ahead.

But nothing has prepared me for this trip.

I am a freelance journalist. I'm 32. And in my lifetime I've paddled canoes 2,500 miles in the wilderness. But that is nothing. Carl, 62, has 25,000 miles, his son, Doug, more than half that, but his specialty is rapids. Russell is an unknown, a friend of Doug's with a sly sense of humor, a narrow nose and a .22 rifle. Paul is a three-year med student who seems worried; I don't think he's trained much -- he hasn't had time. Gordie is a young hippie from my hometown, nephew of the pharmacist, funny. Gordie was supposed to bring a satellite radio.

We shuffle around to make camp; there is no order, no understanding of who does what or who is in charge. So we work on our own things and bungle along until finally Carl takes hold and breaks the silence and we are happy, for the moment, to be led. 

Within an hour tents are up, canoes set, fire going, pasta in the pot and Russell finds us a couple of lake trout that liked his fly; cornmeal fillets snap in the fry pan lard. We eat standing, madly waving off the black flies. When we're done, someone, I'll never tell, reveals the last half pint of whiskey. Gone.

After dinner we hang the food bags -- smoked meat, carbohydrates and starches, beans, lard, honey and syrup -- in one of the tamaracks 30 feet or so from the tents. It is bear territory. No question. But No way they can reach the three canvas bags gently swaying 15 feet off the ground.

We go to bed in the light, weary. It will be 10 or so before dark; 4 a.m. will bring dawn.

It is dusk when we hear the bears. We are all awake. But silent. We know better than to move or speak. My head is close to the tent door and slowly I turn it so I can see what they are doing. They are jumping like fat men. And swatting. And growling. Damnedest sight. Three enormous black forms trying to reach something they can't. They do this for five, 10 minutes. More it seems. They grow frustrated. It is getting darker and harder to see them, sometimes I don't; I just hear them. They start wandering on all fours, towards us, then away, under the food, over to the tree, and then back to us, I hear one of them bash the cook box. I begin thinking that maybe we won't make it past day one of our 50-day journey.

I close my eyes.

In my mind, I see this:


The Day

This is what the day looked like:

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This is what it sounded like:

It was a gray wind. The bell you hear has a story. My Aunt Ruth, who died in 2006 at the age of 95, was a force. She knew what she wanted. Every day. And she did it. One day she was shopping in Portland, Me., and she went by this wind chime store and heard a chime that sounded like a bell buoy. She loved it. She walked right in and bought it and had it shipped to me with a note that said: "Geoffrey, I bought this for you because I knew you missed the sea."

This is what we did, I swear to god:

Put new weather stripping on each of the windows.

Washed the windows.

Made a gallon of applesauce.

Cut, chopped and stacked a half a cord of wood from the drug-from-the-woods pile of limbs and downed trees. Wood for the sugar house come March.

At sunset, watched the colors go from gray to gold to orange to red and listened to the birds.

At dark, which came too early, heard a small group of deer walk by me in the woods in back.

The Morning

The light electrifies the morning, all green and yellow and orange and brown. Heavy frost last night.  Late fall in Vermont. The birds are moving; the animals are restless. Changing patterns, changing seasons.

Last night, coming home from work, in the dark before the moon rise, I came around a corner, open fields on either side and there was a buck deer, 10-points, standing at the edge of the ditch on the left side of the road.

One hundred feet ahead on the left. Standing there. Deciding.  He. Did. Not. Move.

I slowed. And then I saw him move, turning his head towards me as I pulled up next to him, our eyes on each other, just for a moment; I zipped down my window. In a smooth, steady motion, he turned and was gone, disappearing into the black like a mystery.

I continued on.

A possum. A skunk. And when I got home, in a lower branch of one of the oaks, an owl.  I got out of the car, stood in the drive and adjusted my eyes as the moon rose and the world lightened up in a bluish white, I made out owl's form, and then he was as clear as glass.

I wake up to this morning to the white frosted colors sparkling, brisk. All reminders that we must slow down to see, that we must find time to stop and be gentle to ourselves.