Sunday, June 6, 2010

Unearthing the Music

I have not played piano in months, in part because the bone pain made it difficult to sit on a piano bench for longer that a few minutes, and in part because the brain damage affected my memory. Pieces I had memorized and played for decades just weren't there.

But yesterday I had just enough vicodin to be able to sit for a bit longer, so I decided to do what I had been avoiding — discover if my musical memory had returned after a four-month sojourn. I don't mind telling you I was frightened, music being such a huge part of my life, even after the cancer struck. Because I've lost so much muscle, I didn't expect to be able to play well: I just needed to know if the notes were still in my head.

Of course, I first tried to resurrect Chopin's Waltz in C-sharp minor. Why try to unearth something easy? If Chopin is still there, everything is still there. And, of course, I didn't go looking for the score on my bookshelf — it would have been a catastrophe had I needed it.

It wasn't easy. It was as if the melodies and fingerings were buried under feet of mud, but little by little, note by note, phrase by phrase, I remembered. Once I had recovered a long phrase, which at times was an irritating and lengthy process, I could accelerate without losing it! Yeah, it wasn't pretty because of the lack of strength and control in my hands and arms, but I heard the mechanical errors and fixed every damn one of them until I could play the piece just well enough that Chopin stopped by to tip his hat in encouragement. I STILL HAVE THE MUSIC!

I was at it for almost an hour, the longest physical challenge I've attempted this year. Near the end I was sweating profusely, eyes closed, listening to the notes and the phrasing, attempting not only to remember the pieces but to make them beautiful. Well, that last part I'll have to work on later.

I have never been happier. Like a mad thing, I brought back parts of the E minor waltz, then Paderewski, then Bach's Invention in F major. OMG, it was wonderful! If I could have done it, I would have sat there until I had dug up everything, including the gracefulness.

I don't think I'll need any more EKGs. Ivonne was helping me up the stairs afterward. Half-way to the top I started to sob and couldn't stop. Whatever else the last four months have taken from me, my heart was undamaged.


  1. Oh Lonnie, You made me cry thinking of the courage it took to sit and call up your music. Everyday, I thank God for your Ivonne and this recent return to mental health. Now on to the transplant.

    Rebecca Weber

  2. Oh BRAVO Lon. What a great story. So glad
    you found your way at your beloved piano. Some things are just ingrained in the soul and obviously, music is for you.

  3. So wonderful to 'hear' your old self back. You are one of the most amazing people I've known....suspect that Ivonne is truly special too.

    Good luck with the next try, knock on wood!

  4. Dianna, RN, caregiver to husband HunterJune 4, 2010 at 5:51 PM

    So happy for you. Just wish you could play Moonlight Sonata for me, one of my most favorite pieces. Hunter wooed me with that and now can't get through it smoothly. I keep threatening to withhold dinner until he practices but haven't so far. Just happy he's doing well with the awful disease.

  5. Congratulation Lon!
    I was holding my breath when I saw this entry to your blog.
    I feel gleeful myself just reading it! Thanks for sharing your moment and making MY day!
    Jeff / Dr. J

  6. Welcome back and hope eternal. I like the "snap" return back. I completely believe the connection of body and mind. Healing vibes sent your and Ivonne's way daily

  7. Dianna, I can resurrect the first two movements of moonlight, but the amazing third will take a bit longer because I had only done the first step in memorizing before the cancer seized my attention. For you, I'll move it nearer to the top of the list. I think I'll have to start with a number of less demanding pieces because I've lost so much muscle in the the last four months.

  8. Lonnie,
    That is so inspirational. We can get smashed by myeloma. No matter what myeloma does to Lonnie, "you still have the music". Never let it go.


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