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Facing the Music
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I have to face the music. I have to face, literally, the piano, it sole music book the Czerny exercises, which I still can’t properly read, and put my fingers on the keys and play a few times those pieces I’ve already figured out.
But if I don’t practice even those, I will forget everything again.
I’d even forgotten how to read music.
What amazes me is that having forgone everything that once gave me value and pleasure in life – partnership, sex, children, husband—having had all those taken away from me, that I would give a good goddam about the loss of music.
Who cares? The meaning of life has been robbed from me. I cannot think about the losses; I simply cannot. The well of grief is so strong I don’t dare disturb anything on its surface, even, for fear of rippling my entire mass of being.
But—let’s get beyond that – getting beyond that is the only way I survive.
The piano. Well, I ordered that Yamaha that looks like a real piano a few years back, when Bruce was able to attach its legs and put together the bench, when John said “I’d like to contribute to your piano, Mom,” and gave me a check. I played an exercise for him, one of the rare times he was here, and he said I was doing well, a reversal then of parent and child.
Now I do not have Bruce or John (I lost Susan years before), but I have the piano and have never advanced beyond the Czerny exercises. I threw away the piano books John gave me, as he was thinking to be helpful, because those books—gifts– were sort of pebbles in the well.
Women have said to me, “Oh, I took piano lessons, too. I quit after about a year.”
And yet, there are many people who have mastered those keys, whose fingers fly over them, who can read sharps and flats and chords and rhythms. So many. It can be done.
I once “did it.” I started piano lessons at 12 and practiced. Did I hate it then? I went on to take private lessons. In college I took my piano books to one of the practice rooms (even though the piano, music, had nothing to do with my studies) and played, because I didn’t want to lose what I’d accomplished: Chopin’s Polonaise, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Really? I can’t do a Czerny exercise.
Of course between then and now there was the interim of 50 years and no piano. I had to look up the notes of the bass and treble clefs. I almost had to mark them on my piano. Surely I could do this again.
Somebody – how silly!—said, Isn’t it muscle memory? Oh, I wish. What muscles remember how to read music? How to stretch arthritic fingers for a full octave? How to know what the sharps and flats are—particularly when they get to 5 or 6 in the key signature?
Oh, why am I doing this! Face the music. It’s what I think I might have some control over.


Devastating and specific. Play on, dear friend, play on.

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