“And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infest the day
Shall fold their tents like the Arabs
And as silently steal away.”—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Day Is Done
One early memory I have of my mother is of sitting on the living room floor, listening to her tune her acoustic guitar. It seems that everyone of her generation learned a musical instrument, if for no other reason than to be social. During her high school years, she played in a band. Nothing Heavy Metal, mind you. (Rock and roll was still to be born.) It was the early 1940s. They belted out hits like, “You Are My Sunshine” and “Sweet Adeline.”
Several years ago, Mom’s lovely old guitar broke and couldn’t be fixed—and the music stopped. So I was surprised recently when I showed up to spend our usual Sunday afternoon together and she had a guitar case sitting on her bed. Apparently, one of her fellow residents at the assisted living facility can no longer play it, so it is on permanent loan to Mom.
Mom asked if I could take her to the local music store to get some picks and a shoulder strap. We hopped in the car and I parked near the door. My 85-year-old mother determinedly tread into the music store past all the aspiring young musicians, guitar case in hand, offering a study in contrasts. She was intently focused on what she wanted, waiting patiently while a mother chatted with the clerk about music lessons for her squirmy son. Mom’s foot was slowly tapping in anticipation. This was serious business.
"I can't listen to Wagner that much. I start getting the urge to conquer Poland."—Woody Allen
The clerk finally turned to Mom and asked what she wanted. “Picks and a guitar strap,” she replied tersely. He tried to sell her on a nice cushioned shoulder strap for $20, but she would have none of it.
“It’s not my guitar,” she interjected into his sales spiel, “So I’m not spending anything on it.” She settled for the $5 nylon strap. Nothing fancy, but it would get the job done. He told her the guitar strings were worn and should be replaced. She replied that they worked just fine. He suggested that she might want to consider a digital tuner. She responded with a thoroughly disgusted expression on her face, leaving a moment of awkward silence as he rang up her purchase. Not much of a sale that day. Just four 25-cent guitar picks and the strap.
|Tenacious G, poised to play.|
"Music is an outburst of the soul."—Frederick Delius
A week later, I stopped by for our regular Sunday outing and asked if she would play something for me. She was a bit sad. She told me she could play all the chords, but was no longer able to put the individual chords together into a song as she used to do without thinking. Apparently, the brain hemorrhage she had back in 2004 had damaged the part of the brain that knits chords into songs. I suggested that if she could play the chords, perhaps we could get a song book that lists the chords for each song, then she could play them that way. That idea perked her up a bit.
The music store was closed that day, but the song books are on my list of things to do. It should be interesting to see if Mom can coax some music out of her new guitar!