Teach me to play

My mother's hands were capable of creating the most beautiful music. She would sit down to the piano to play and the world would stand still in awe of her talent. My dad said that my mother's playing was musical poetry, and if you've ever heard her play, you'd understand what he meant. There are many people who can play the notes on a sheet of music, really difficult music, but that's just the technical side. Then there are a select few who have something special in addition to the technique. It's hard to explain what that thing is. For my mother, it's poetry.

One of my most cherished memories of my childhood is bedtime. My folks would put us to bed, then my mother would sit at the piano, usually in the dark, and play. We would get our pillows and blankets and lie down on the floor in our upstairs bedrooms so that we could better hear the music as it made it's way up through the floor vents. She played Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Debussy... all the great classical composers, and she played them beautifully. Imagine what the world would look like if every child got to fall asleep like that!

My mother was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease several years ago. As it's progressed, she has lost a significant amount of use in her left hand, leaving her unable to play challening music any longer. To say it's been a profound loss for her wouldn't even come close, and she has had to grieve that loss in her own way. My mother always told us that we could do hard things. She is living proof that it is possible. But there is an added element to that notion as I watch my mother... she is doing this very hard thing, and she is doing it purposefully and with as much grace and she can muster. She saw several opportunities to help other people learn to play the piano and has offered to teach them. She isn't interested in being paid, she just wants to pass on her knowledge and skill to someone else so that he or she can turn around and play beautiful music. I am genuinely inspired by her depth and hope to inherit a fraction of her character.

This photo is precious to me. I have several that are similar to this one, starting with my oldest daughter, Avery, when she was 1 year old sitting next to my mom on this very piano bench. My children, as well as the other grandchildren in our family love to sit at the piano with Grandma. It's one of the memories I hope they'll remember and cherish forever.


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