When the phone rang at 4:00 on that Friday afternoon, I thought, “What now? What else could go wrong?” I had come home to make dinner, after five days of unpacking box after box of too much stuff and too many things that my mother insisted on bringing. Kara was still at the assisted living home, helping her grandmother get settled. I thought she was going to tell me that she had done all she could do, and was at the end of her rope. But what I heard in the background was the reason for the call.
My daughter’s voice was tinged with weariness and cautious hope. “Listen to this, Mom,” she said. Someone was playing the piano. I recognized her style immediately. It was my mother, playing “Stardust,” my father’s favorite. This was my mother, playing the piano, as in happier times.
We didn’t speak for a full minute, as we listened and choked back tears. After losing the battle for her independence, after having her life turned inside out, after being forced to face institutional living, Mom finally relaxed and found what would soothe her sense of loss, her music. Several other residents stopped in to ask who was playing the piano so beautifully, and my mom was finally in her element. The new girl in town was making music for her neighbors.
As I heard the familiar melodies, “The Old Rugged Cross,” “In the Garden,“ “Sentimental Journey,“ I pictured those ninety-six-year-old arthritic hands, finding their way through the chords with the same precision and ease as of the past 80 years.
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