An Old Memory

November 5, 2017

Funny how the human mind works.

At this moment in my life, I am troubled.  We just recently went through our annual All Saints Day event and I reminisced a lot about my father.  I still miss him badly.  Not a single day passes that he doesn’t enter my thoughts.  My mother is also feeling the pain of his absence, and I am feeling her pain on top of mine.

I am restarting another position at my place of employment.  It is very difficult and stressful as the training was lackluster at best and I am near totally unprepared to deal with what they expect me to deal with on a daily basis with no real preparation.

As if that is not all, there are several other even bigger things in my life that are pulling me down emotionally that I won’t speak of here, and I am not ashamed to say it… I am feeling a bit depressed.

Worst yet, right now, I just don’t know how I can pull out of this funk, how can I change things around, but like a drowning man, I continue to fight every waking second.  The will to live, survive and overcome is incredibly powerful.  I feel no urge to give up, but there is a feeling of frustration from trying to swim against the current and getting nowhere fast.

To add insult to injury, on top of everything else, my hands hurt from the arthritis, and that makes even wanting to play my accordion quite difficult.

So here it is, Sunday morning.  I woke up tired and still very sore from yesterday’s Jiu-Jitsu class (which is likely the one GOOD thing for me this instant), and I am in this kind of haze of unhappiness.

As I sit here with my cup of coffee, it’s 4:30am, and I am thinking about my predicaments and looking for solutions.

Sadly, no solutions come looming to me this morning.

One small thing in my life that I do from time to time is to ask myself “is there anything I can do this instant about this challenge?”… if the answer is no, then I try to put it away for that moment and reopen things at times that I feel I can better deal with them.  This early in the morning with it feeling like the entire world is asleep and totally uncaring to my plights, there is not much I can do.  So instead of doing nothing, I look back for a memory of a better time, and one kind of comes to mind and very quickly changes my mental direction.  It’s not a happy memory, but it has a happy ending in my heart.

This moment happened at a point in my life where things were a million times tougher than now.  My sister many years ago had been in an accident where a severely drunk driver hit her little car with his big boat of a 70’s car at ridiculous speeds and she was flung from the car and bounced along the uncaring asphalt for an incredible distance at insane speeds where if most people were subjected to, they would simply die.  She did not die, though, but there was not one square inch of her body that wasn’t scraped to raw flesh, there was not one tooth in her mouth that wasn’t severely damaged.  Uncounted bones in her body were shattered and worst of all was the severe head trauma that caused her to be in a coma for a long while and even later after her agonizingly long period of healing, this damage gave her the added complication of taking away pretty much all her childhood memories… forever.

She spent weeks in intensive care, months in a convalescence home in a wheel chair, learning to walk and talk and it was during her time in the convalescence home that I have my little memory (quite the build-up just to bring you here, isn’t it?).

It somehow came up that I would bring my accordion to the convalescent home and play outside in the park for not just my sister but the people there.  During all this time, my mother was almost constantly at either the hospital or the convalescent home with my sister, making sure that everything possible was being made to happen to make sure that my sister got well as fast as she could (my mother did that for my father too… she never left the side of the family member that needed it… God bless her).

It was during one of these times that my sister was having a little bit of a better day, my mother noticed the woman in the next bed as she was taking care of my sister.  The woman did not have anyone other than the nurses to take care of her, and so she spent most of her time alone.  This woman made no indications of discomfort as she never spoke and rarely moved, instead she would either spend the hours sleeping or staring at the ceiling endlessly.  My mother would sometimes get her something to eat or drink or call the nurse when this woman needed changing.  I was also there often during those hard days for my sister and I noted this very silent room partner of hers.  I tried engaging in conversation a couple of times, with no response at all, so I basically left her alone.

The day that I was to play for my sister came and I had come earlier in the day and spent an hour or so setting up my equipment in the little park that was part of the convalescent home at the back of the building that opened up to a nice sized little park, and I played.  It was a warm summer day, the kind that held all kinds of promise.  The air cool, the sun was warm and I played my music.

I must have been playing for about two hours, when I noticed more and more people were being brought out on rolling beds and wheelchairs.  Some of the nurses had brought out folding chairs and I was a little surprised when I made a quick mental count and must have found myself playing to perhaps 40-50 people.

The fact that I was playing to so many people was not the part that surprised me, this happened about 15 seconds in to the song Dark Eyes (also known as Ochi Cherni), and I had to kind of close my mouth which had quite suddenly dropped down to my chest agape in surprise when I noticed that my sister’s silent room mate was in a wheelchair in the second row, and her throaty contralto voice was loudly singing the words to the song I was playing… but she sang in Russian!

I played with increased vigor, slowing the tempo of the song a little, and matching her intensity, which she was so freely feeling and sharing.  We made music together, and everyone was looking at her, but most of all was the younger man that was behind her, holding on to the wheelchair, suddenly standing up out of his chair with tears streaming down his face and embracing his mother that had apparently been completely silent for years.  I stood up and moved closer to her and played to her… no, I played FOR her, and her alone and she easily kept pace with me all the way to the end of the song.  When the song ended, it was obvious that she was exhausted, her head rolled around on her shoulders and her son took her back to her room.

I also was suddenly feeling the fatigue, but I certainly could not have stopped playing at that moment.  I played for another couple hours and then thanked my audience for being there.

I recall that I had to pack up all my equipment back to the car, and that took me a while, but as soon as I was packed up, I went back to my sister’s room and she was telling me that there were so many people that came to thank her for bringing in “that accordion guy”, but there was no nicer reward than the smile, the strong hug and kind words I got from our Russian lady’s son.

A few days later, I came back and my sister was alone in her room with my mother, and when I asked what happened, she did not know, though she did ask a couple of nurses… they either did not know or did not wish to say, but we never again saw the woman and her son.  I suppose one could wax long and poetic about the power of music, but I will let that moment speak for itself.

It was a powerful moment in my life.  At this moment, I am feeling a little better after having relived this memory, especially by writing it down here.  Things don’t seem as hopeless as they did a few minutes earlier.


A couple months later, my sister was well enough to slowly start the journey of leaving the convalescence home, but her story of the struggle to rehabilitation  is much longer and was years in the making… but my story will now simply end here.