Two women harangued me on my colorful attire – did I really stand out that much in my vest with some metallic gold threads, and my bolo tie with gold bling? It was not my intention to outshine my bandmates – I just like to wear colors and sparkly stuff. Seemed perfect for the last Holiday concert of the year. You won’t find muted beige and gray in my closet! I never worked for IBM, and if you see me in a suit and tie, its either a wedding or a funeral.

Call me lucky. My dad was lucky too. How did he get through the post D-Day fields of France and still be sporting his Art Deco rings in photos?

Even at age 2, I chose red so much that my mother kidded that I came from the gypsies. So when I saw my heel through my old unapologetically red socks and placed them in the trash, I flashed to the 1980’s when cool musicians like Turtle Island String Quartet wore them. Or is it just my fading memory?

What is clear: in 1961 my dad ordered his first economy car, a red Ford Falcon, with red interior and roof. The salesman warned it would be too much, but dad was firm. Before we could pick it up, several folks fell in love with it and tried to buy it off the lot.

I drove several 20 year old red convertibles when my son was a toddler. I did not mind the rust holes, long as they started up.

Over time, the sun fades bright colors, especially red, even artwork hit by reflected light in a south-facing room. While the beiges and grays soldier on with impunity.

As his inner sun weakened, my aging father’s face grew more pale. Even his lips lost their color, as if his blood was retreating inward to prepare for the inevitable stillness. His blue eyes still sparkled as he made us laugh. His vitals were stable – after singing “Silent Night” with him, we returned home to sleep. The call came at 2:30 AM. Sitting vigil with his body, the finality and sadness washed over us, until the funeral director came. When he asked for something to cover him, I chose a bright blue blanket, even as the hole in my chest widened where the red was.


Blaise Kielar received Honorable Mention in the 2022 Alex Albright Creative Nonfiction Prize for an excerpt from his memoir in progress, "Be Heard: The Quiet Kid Who Started the World’s Loudest Violin Shop." He opened Chapel Hill’s first violin shop in 1978 and retired from a music retail career by transitioning Electric Violin Shop into the first worker-owned co-op music store in the United States. He plays jazz violin and clarinet in several bands and leads the Bulltown Strutters, Durham’s community New Orleans brass band.