“Returned airman values sounds of silence, and piano keys” Duluth News Tribune, 8 Feb 2009.

I thought something was wrong. I stared at the ceiling, puzzled about the ringing in my ears. Then I figured it out. It was complete silence. I rolled over in my own bed and smiled.

The Bulldogs from the 148th Fighter Wing returned from Joint Base Balad, Iraq, a few weeks ago. Balad is a constant attack on your hearing.

You’re never out of earshot of the giant diesel generators that are running at full bore all over the base. At random times, with little warning, the explosive ordnance disposal guys perform controlled detonations to destroy confiscated enemy weapons. In short, they blow stuff up. Ka-BOOM. Automatic weapons fire at the rifle range. Then those pesky fighter jets roar into the air next to the trailers where we sleep. It’s perfectly fine for me to use afterburner when I fly, but those other pilots should respect my beauty rest. The public address system blares “All Clear” after we’re attacked by a mortar. Helicopters buzz everywhere like chainsaws with wings. One of my buddies says he’s going to ask the LifeFlight chopper to hover over his house in Duluth so he can sleep at night.

Since there was no escape from the aural assault, I plugged into the iPod and tried to drown it out. While the tunes were on shuffle, I was brought up short by one little piano song: “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” It’s the launching point for kids who enter the Suzuki Method of music instruction. Suddenly, I found something I valued more than quiet: The idea of my kids playing the piano.

Four years ago, some friends of ours in Michigan had their remarkably young children play violin and piano for us. They were being taught with the Suzuki Method. We looked into the Lake Superior Suzuki Talent Education Program at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Denise Lindquist from Mountain Iron introduced the world of piano to my two kids. I instruct pilots for a living, but Denise could give me lessons on how to give lessons. She keeps things fun for kids while also insisting on focus and discipline. She sees her students’ attention span waning and is able to head them off at the pass and keep them on target. She’s a heck of an instructor. She even sent a Christmas package of homemade popcorn balls and fudge to our squadron while we were downrange.

So, I’m grateful. The Bulldogs are home safe from Iraq. There’s lots of snow to play in. I stomp into the basement and pull off my wet ski boots after cross country skiing. I rest there in the calm and music tumbles downstairs from the black and white keys.

I joke with my son and ask, “You playing some dang Beethoven?”

He laughs and says, “Yup.”

It’s good to be home.


About Eric Chandler

Husband. Father. Pilot. Cross Country Skier. Writer. Author of Outside Duluth and Down In It.
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