What dad left behind, my son has taken up

We learn what we've inherited when we pass it on to our kids. In the best of all possible worlds, we give them a good inheritance.

My father died nine years ago. His love of music ran so deep it defined almost all the memories he left me.

He struggled in many ways, but not when he put a record on the player, picked up sticks or brushes and played his drums. He'd close his eyes, nod to the rhythm and live in a world without grief or anger.

Listening to my dad play the drums, I learned to love Ella Fitzgerald's scat singing, Dave Brubeck's rippling piano, and big-band sounds. I learned to love classical music, too; my dad took us to summer concerts at Ravinia Park outside Chicago.

I inherited a lot from my dad. Like him, I have a lot more enthusiasm and energy than I know what to do with.

Like him, I have always had a driving desire to make the world a better place, to give to people, to care.

He liked helping people, and I do, too. He liked making people happy. Me, too.

But these days I think mostly about the gift of music he gave me, because I see how much it has found a home in my son, Erik.

Erik plays keyboards and odd percussion instruments. When he was 12 and studying for his bar mitzvah (an important rite of passage for Jewish children), we asked him whether he wanted any particularly gift. He did have something in mind.

An accordion, in fact.

We found a student model that was a lovely imitation-marble green, and two days later my kid was playing "Hava Nagila," a famous Jewish dance tune, at someone else's bar mitzvah party.

Over the years, Erik continued to play: a little classical piano, electronic keyboards, Middle Eastern drums and his Chinese-made accordion.

I'd wonder what my dad would think of his grandchild, who played and performed blues, jazz and classic rock on his keyboards and Ladino and Yiddish tunes on the accordion.

It's been six years since Erik first hefted his student accordion. It was way too big for him then. Not anymore.

A few weeks ago we found a shop in Philadelphia that sells used accordions. The owner puts videos of every one he has for sale on the web. You can go on his site and listen to reconditioned accordions from decades past, accordions from Germany and Italy.

Now Erik has a new old accordion. It's awesome. My dad would be delighted.

Erik is working on his repertoire this summer. He wants to take his new accordion to college this fall and play on street corners. He wants to give whatever donations he gets to a good cause.

Like my dad, a love of music. Like my dad, a wish to make the world a better place.

It's a good inheritance.