A Chip off the Old Block

Our late son-in-law, Jon Jance, (He took our daughter’s name when they married.) was 37 years old when he lost a nine-year battle with malignant melanoma.  Because he was young and otherwise healthy, he signed up for every protocol that came his way.  He was Patient #6 on a T-cell protocol at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.  (A dozen years later T-cell treatments pioneered by Jon and other cancer treatment pioneers are giving hope and in some cases remission to newly diagnosed melanoma patients.)

What the T-cell protocol did for Jon is give him two extra years of reasonably good quality of life.  That course of treatment also gave us our grandson, Colt, who was nine-months old when we lost his Daddy.  Obviously Colt has no memory of the graveside service at the Douglas A. Munro Memorial in Cle Elum.  Jon was active duty Coast Guard at the time of his diagnosis, and he was part of the honor guard when the Douglas Munro Memorial was dedicated.  That’s where Jon wanted to be buried—there with his fellow Coasties.

The ceremony was moving.  The guys who did the 21-gun salute were a bunch of crusty old Vietnam vets, and they’ve been there ever since—every year on Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day—to welcome Jeanne T. and Colt—because that’s where they go twice a year—to Cle Elum to visit with Jon.  The guys who did that service know Colt by name, and they remember him.

Three years ago as a fourth grader, when Colt joined the school band at Rose Hill Elementary , he signed up to play trumpet, and then he went to the band instructor with a special request.  Between September and the end of May, could he teach Colt to play Amazing Grace so he could play it for his Daddy on Memorial Day?.  As the band teacher told Jeanne T. later, in more than thirty years of teaching band, he’d never had that kind of request, but believe you me, that teacher delivered.

When Jeanne T. and Colt are in the car, traveling back and forth to bowling tournaments or to church or to Doggy Day Care, she’s Captain Kirk and he’s Lt. Uhura.  (I wonder if he’s ever seen any of those original Star Trek episodes?)  But he does a terrific job of handling communications.  For a long time, they had a favorite radio team.  Three years ago, in May, the DJs asked what people were planning to do on Memorial Day weekend.  Colt immediately dialed the station’s number and said he was going to go to the cemetery in Cle Elum to play Amazing Grace on his trumpet for his Daddy.  My understanding is that the station went straight to a commercial break, because there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.  When they came back on air, they asked Colt if he would come to the station and play Amazing Grace for them.  He did.

At the time Colt was a beginning trumpet player.  His performance may not have been brilliant, but give the kid credit for being brave.  Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass was in no danger of being overtaken by a fourth-grader named Colt Jance, but he played the piece live and on the air, and we were very proud of him.

Tonight I went to see the Rose Hill Middle School’s fall band concert. Colt, now in Jazz Band, was one of two soloists in the jazz band segment. (He also functioned as stage manager for the entire production, handling microphones and rearranging the seats on stage.  When the jazz band swung into a toe-tapping version of Tuxedo Junction, I had goose bumps.  Colt’s solo came in the next number, Oye, ¿cómo va? which, loosely translated and, as far as I can tell, means, “Hey, how’s it going?”  The piece was wonderful, and so was Colt’s performance.   I applauded like crazy.  There may even have been a stray, unauthorized, and culturally inappropriate coyote yip or two thrown into the mix.

Tonight’s solo was a long way from that initial rendition of Amazing Grace.  Colt’s Mommy was proud; his Grandma was proud; and I’m sure his Daddy would have been proud, too.  I only wish Jon could have been there to see Colt do it.

When my mother, Evie, first became a grandmother in the late Fifties, she referred to herself as an SIG with PIP, which, loosely translated, means “Silly Old Grandma with Pictures in Purse.”  Given the changes in technology, I suppose that acronym needs to be changed to SIG with POP—Silly Old Grandma with Pictures on Phone.

And if you don’t believe me, just ask because, as you’ll soon learn, I really am a chip off the old block.

21 thoughts on “A Chip off the Old Block

  1. Thanks for sharing that emotional bit about your grandson and his tribute to his father…music is such an important part of our souls.

  2. Thanks for sharing your story. When we lived in Redmond, our boys went to RHJH and the jazz band was one of the top bands in the city. You can be very proud of Colt.

  3. Wonderful tribute. I too am a lucky mother-in-law who has 3 daughters I did not give birth to but love and admire for the women they are. My sons are very fortunate men. We have been spared the heartache you and your family have suffered – thank you for sharing.

  4. Oh Ms. Janice, crying. You have a wonderful grandson. My heart aches for their loss. When you wrote about the radio station going to commercial and not a dry eye in the house I started crying. So young to have to leave his beautiful family. He is smiling down on his beautiful son and wife. Sending prayers, hugs and love to you all. I am a SIG too.

  5. A beautiful way to start the weekend..thank you ? Colt sounds like an amazing young man. I am also a SIG with POP!

  6. I skip thru and delete so many of my email messages very quickly. But not with any message I receive from you. I stop and read every word. Your messages are full of truth and remind you that there are still people in the US who live a full life and contribute in so many ways to those around them. Thank you.

  7. Thanks for sharing that beautiful story. Colt is an amazing young man and you have every right to be proud. I too was in the band, orchestra, marching and jazz. I was a female drummer! Colt would have made a great addition to our band.
    He has definitely had the right values taught to him in his young years.

  8. What a wonderful tribute from Colt to his dad. Beautiful story. Thank you for sharing your family with all of us. A mature young man. You have every reason to be very proud.

  9. Thanks for the visual of a young boy, trumpet in hand, playing Amazing Grace at the cemetery.
    It took me 20 minutes to get through this blog – had to stop several times to wipe away my tears.

  10. Congratulations what an amazing grandson you have. Happy to hear he’s still playing trumpet. I am proud of him and I don’t even know him. I’m sure his daddy heard on that Memorial Day and Last night as well.

    Thanks for telling this story…

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