Friday, December 28, 2018

Once more around the sun

This is the traditional time of year for the traditional year in review. If the anxiety over Christmas hasn't finished me off, I should look back on a year of accomplishments and see if there was enough there to justify one 584 million mile trip around the sun. Let's see...

I taught a couple of OSHER courses that were well attended and enjoyed. I gave two organ recitals at Heinz Chapel, one of the nicest places to play an organ concert in Pittsburgh, besides innumerable gigs and concerts and rehearsals. We went to Florida in the spring and managed not to piss off the crocodiles. In October I ran the Baltimore Marathon. It was my first marathon after cancer. The last 90 minutes were not pretty. But I made it to the finish and I have an illustrious crab medal to prove it. I looked awful by the 12th mile if that guy's reaction was any indication. But I'm tougher than I look. Also, I got a cat. She's feisty.

That can all be put in the "stuff I've done" column. But how much did it matter to anyone but me. Was anybody else affected?

For a positive answer to that I think back only a month, to the day I played a gig at the Presbyterian Senior Care's Dementia unit. It was Christmas time, and they wanted Christmas carols, which was perfect, because it meant I didn't have to practice anything. I could just show up and play melodies I knew by heart in arrangements I was making up at the time. Also I told stories and jokes and anything else I happened to think of. It was fun and relaxing.

I had also brought my computer along so I could play a couple recordings of organ pieces I'd played recently to share with the residents. At one point, after I returned to the piano to play another carol arrangement I saw a gentleman out of the side of my eye walking away with my portable speaker! I finished the piece and an attendant told me he'd get the speaker back for me. I packed up the equipment as soon as I was done.

After a few written pieces and some more improvisations I decided we should sing a few carols together. We sang Joy to the World and Silent Night. Before that we gave "Deck the Halls" a try. Anybody know the second verse? I asked. We tried to reconstruct it together. I hadn't sung it in years, and confessed that as a pianist I don't really pay enough attention to the words. But dementia patients who may forget what happened 30 seconds ago are still able to pull things out of the distant past, and they helped me put it together.

Fast away the old year passes ( don't want to know what those falalas are for! I said)
Strike the chorus lads and lasses...
follow me in merry measure....
troll the ancient yuletide treasure.....

I got by with a little help from my friends, including the nice lady who asked me the same question twice in a minute.

Afterward, in the parking lot, I wondered if any of them remembered that I had been there.

But I wouldn't forget. After all, my heart was still warm from singing silent night with all of them.

As, I'm sure, were theirs, even if they couldn't remember why.

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