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Monday, November 29, 2010

The Piano Teacher

“Are you going out to lunch?”  my co-worker, Gina, asked as she poked her head into my office. 

“No.  I have about twenty resident assessments to complete,” I replied, unable to mask my obvious stress.  

“Do you want me to bring you something?”  Gina offered.  

“No, thanks. I‘m not hungry.”  I glanced at my coffee cup.  “I have plenty of coffee to get me by.” 

“You must have coffee running in your veins!”  Gina exclaimed and laughed. 

Fridays were always stressful days.  Trying to meet report deadlines, chasing down documentation, and completing residents computerized information known as MDSall meant skipping lunch and spending a great deal of time on the computer.  Minimum Data Sets (MDS) are part of the U.S. federally mandated process for clinical assessment of all residents in Medicare or Medicaid certified nursing homes.  

After Gina left, I concentrated on my project.  My mind had no place for other thoughts or interruptions.  I needed to complete the MDS assessments. 

As I tried to maintain my focus, I found myself distracted, not by the blare of the phone ringing, or a person disturbing me with questions, but by the sound of music: piano music.  I struggled between trying to keep my focus on the reports and my curiosity about where the music was coming from.  It took me a few minutes to finally realize that the music came from the dining room.  Then, remembered that a volunteer always visited the nursing home on Fridays.  Lucy played the piano while the residents were having lunch.  

My attempt to stay focused was unsuccessful.  I love piano music.  Since I was a little girl, I always wanted to learn how to play piano.  Today, it remains as an unfinished dream.  

I stood up and headed toward the dining room.  I had to see Lucy’s beautiful and disciplined fingers dancing on the piano keys, commanding the hammers to strike the strings and release an orchestra of music.  I had to indulge myself in the majestic music.  
I walked throughout the dining room.  I observed the residents as I listened to the music. They seemed to like it as well.  Alice, a new resident, especially appeared to be captivated by the music.  With the mouth slightly open and her eyes centered on the piano,  Alice looked blissful.  

I am not the only one enchanted by the piano music,  I mused. 

I returned to my office to continue working on my assignment.  Later that evening, before I left work, I decided to visit with Alice.  

Alice was sitting in her wheelchair in the hall, observing people, and as though in a meditative state of mind.  

“Alice, you look quite relaxed,” I said, as I drew closer to her. 

“It’s been a nice day,”  she said, smiling.  “Did you see the lady playing the piano today? 

“Yes, I did.  That’s Lucy.  Since she retired a year ago, she volunteers to play the piano,”  I explained.  

“When she finished playing the piano, she came to my table, and asked me if I was Alice Chambers. I told her “yes, why?”  She then asked me if I remembered her, which I didn’t.  She said I was her piano teacher when she was a young girl.” 

“What?”  My jaw dropped. “Really?”  I was astonished.  

“I taught piano for a while, before I went to work for a bank.”  Alice said, with excitement. “I used to have four or five students who came to my house for lessons on my piano.” 

“How interesting, Alice!” I exclaimed.  

“Lucy said I look the same.”  Alice grinned.  “I honestly didn’t recognize her at first.  She was just a teenager back then,”  Alice said, shaking her head in remembrance of those days.  

“Do you mean it’s been over fifty years since you taught Lucy how to play the piano?”  I asked, with evident amazement. 

“Hmm... yes, more than fifty years!”  Alice said.  “Who would think that that young girl who cried when she missed a note would now be a fantastic pianist, delighting me in my new home?

“Alice, you are harvesting the seeds you planted fifty years ago. The seeds of music and talent you sowed.” 

Alice smiled.  I left her deep in her reflections of teaching young piano students.  I wished I were one of them. 


Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Delores,

Oh my; how I wished for being able to play the piano or the organ. Pieter always told me that I have the long, slender fingers for it... On the key board typing with ten fingers blink, I can do it flying; but not playing music.
So I understand your musings! But what a wonderful memory for Alice, even if she couldn't recognize her former student from half a century ago. What a gift and a double gift to pass it on to others so it comes back to you!

Lots of love,

Mariette's Back to Basics

Karin said...

Just loved that story and thank you for capturing it. I trust that taking the time to enjoy the volunteer and later talking with Alice gave you the refreshing that you needed in your spirit to meet all the stresses of your job head on!

Andrea said...

I wish I had followed through with piano lessons as a young child.

cyclopseven said...

Life offers many sweet things. Some disappears in time. Some follow us for life time. And, this write-up tell us that anything seeded with good intention will surely bear good fruits when the time comes. God Bless Alice, Lucy and you too:)

Joanna St. James said...

I bet neither Alice nor Lucy saw this coming I cant believe they reconnected after more than 50 years. This is a heartwarming story on why it is important to give back.
Thank you 4 sharing

Jules said...

I would have to add what a blessing you received by merely talking to Alice. I loved this story.

Now go sign up for piano lessons :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Mary Aalgaard said...

Oh, my, this story is making me cry. It's beautiful. Whenever I feel discouraged about teaching piano (I have 18 students right now), I will pull this post back up (I book-marked it in my favorites), and read it. I'm also feeling encouraged to share my music at a nursing home or memory care center this season. Thanks, Doris. So much.

Unknown said...

I'm crying again. You always make me cry. Thank you so much.

A Plain Observer said...

What a nice story. Volunters are a blessing, aren't they? the time and energy they offer carries more love because they do it for no other reason than out of the kindness of their heart.
I used to skip lunch to catch up in my stressful job. Then I discovered that when I stepped away and went for - in my case-a run I was more focused and I produced even more. I never again skipped lunch

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful story. I, too, love piano music and I am most blessed to be able to play it. It is so peaceful and comforting for me. Sometimes the littlest things are the greatest gifts. That music was special for all three of you. So true about the seeds we plant, and to think, some day we may be able to see the fruits just as Alice did.

Anonymous said...

You are so blessed in your work! This is another heart-warming story. You should have a collection by now?!

I remember when I was about fifteen, I played the violin for the residents in a nursing home. (I also played the piano when I was a teenager.) It was a totally silent audience, but now, all these years later, I'm certain the music touched them in ways they couldn't express. Music does this.

Just Be Real said...

Delores, wow! Wonderful story. I could never master the piano. I got my grandmother’s piano (she played) when she died. I was able to master the guitar though. Thank you for sharing. Blessings.

Gerry said...

What a beautiful human interest story. I live in a big complex for the aging and disabled, so I have seen the coming and the passing of many residents. This complex was once a great luxury hotel built in 1928. It has a big ballroom, and sometimes I imagine I can see the spirits of past residents whirling in dance. We have had so many good parties here, karaoke and great food. A room full of memories probably for many people.

Guinevere said...

Oh, I love that story. It's very cool to think that the student she taught so long ago would end up playing for her fifty years later!

Amrita said...

This is such a deeply touching story.

I found a lesson in this sentence

I had to see Lucy’s beautiful and disciplined fingers dancing on the piano keys, commanding the hammers to strike the strings and release an orchestra of music. I had to indulge myself in the majestic music.

What the keys strike the hammer touching the strings, beautiful musc is released. Painful experiences bring out the best in us.

Michele said...

you know, my neigbours have a piano. and it is only one of the few that does not annoy me as a next door neighbor. i love it when they play it. they play beautiful music which i find very relaxing when iam stressed out. the former neighbours that lived there played horrid rap music so lound it boomed thru the walls and upset me greatly. i have had peace since the new neighbours moved in. and iam glad. God is indeed good.

Terri Tiffany said...

Your stories always touch me:) But those dreaded MDSs you may have! I hated how they took away my time with residents.

Nikki (Sarah) said...

what a great story. I had a patient who had one of our nurses caring for her too...it's funny how life goes in circles...we never know who we touch.

Toyin O. said...

Great story, have always wanted to learn piano.

Just Be Real said...

Came back by to give you a ((((hug)))).

Michele said...

Merry Christmas!! may your holiday be filled with love, peace, and joy!

God bless you!

Arlee Bird said...

That is a wonderful story. We sometimes never know who's lives we have touched, but it is sure rewarding when we do hear about it down the road.

Tossing It Out

MTJ said...

Hi Doris,

I too have always loved the sound of music. I would very much like to learn to play an instrument.

I like what you said to Alice, "...you are harvesting the seeds you planted...The seeds of music and talent you sowed."

Blessings and peace.


Katy-Mei said...

I love watching people play the piano... 35 years dreaming... I had a few months lesson and my own piano... my dream come truth... :-) but wish I can keep on the lesson and do my pratice... :-(

Thanks for dropping by and comment, love the story. Mei