Or a Beethoven. I sat down at a piano yesterday and played a simple tune I learned back in grade school. Mind you, I am no virtuoso, but playing that simple tune—with both hands—is something I’ve been able to do for most of my life. I even learned to play the piano upside-down using this song at one point in my life. Trust me, I know it’s simple notes by heart. There was a simple joy in playing it yesterday as my daughter pounded to her heart’s content on the upper notes next to me.
The reason I write on this is because I recollect a time when I could not play the piano. It was the first week after surgery. I was with my occupational therapist and my friend Sharlene, one on either side of me as I swayed unsteadily through the hallways attempting to teach my left leg to stay under me. There is a light-filled place near the neuro-unit with a TV, tables, comfortable chairs, books, and a piano. I knew it was useless at the time, but in a fit of idiotic despair, I stumbled to the piano bench, sat heavily, and used my right hand to lift my rubbery and senseless left onto the keys. I suppose that I hoped my ability to move my fingers would suddenly reassert itself. Unfortunately, the dead weight of my hand lay there uselessly, pressing the keys down in unmelodic combination of notes. I would say that this was the dreariest part of the whole paralysis experience, summed up in a few harsh moments as I sat there feeling sorry for myself and absolutely incapable of creating beautiful music. I think my therapist almost cried too as I sobbed piteously (the gut-wrenching kind) onto the keys of that hapless piano. Sharlene patted my heaving back and sat steadily beside me, offering sustaining phrases about healing.
There is a teenage girl I know here in Anchorage who is currently healing from some terrible things. I don’t know the extent of her therapy, because her condition is far different from mine, but I do know she has some sort of physical therapy to regain the use of her body right now. I think of the long road she has ahead of her. I only wish she had the energy to read my words and know that things will be okay—eventually. But I know she probably doesn’t, because I’ve been there myself. In dedication to Hopey, I declare gratitude for the capacity to play a childhood song, and continue to have faith that she will be able to walk, run, hike, or play soccer (etc) again soon. Prayers worked for me, and they will work for her.