Diary 9/25/18

It is coming to the end of September, the start of fall weather, which to me, is always good news. Hot humid climates are that much harder for most people with MS. Everybody feels draggy in such conditions because wet heat slows down the transmission of electrical messages from neurons in the brain to muscle receptors. (Think relaxing in a hot bath.) My neurology already has slowed communications due to the road blocks or scars (sclerosis) of the disease, so sticky summer weather can be additionally crippling for me.

The Kendal Kabaret was a great success. My surprise was that after an absence of performing for almost 30 years, I saw how my wounded neurology was very challenged by the the nervous energy of being on stage again. The inevitable gearing up with the frisson of fear that accompanies performing was almost more than my fragile nervous system could handle. It didn’t automatically convert into the charge of projecting my voice as it used to do in the past. I was very fortunate to have a calm professional stand up bass player to accompany me. He kept me from being too pitchy (going sharp or flat) and kept my tempo nice and steady. He was like a grounding rod, and now he is a new friend among the residents.

In addition, my family was here all together for the first time since my husband’s death. We adjusted to the loss of the brother/father/husband/father-in-law at the same time. It was like watching a slow shifting of gears as they slowly turned, quietly locking into place. It felt natural and easy and fun to be with one another. That they got to see me in the Kabaret was icing on the delicious birthday cake (not a confection) of their presence.

My daughter from NY stayed with me at Kendal for two full days, meeting my new friends, swimming in the wonderful pool here, hanging with a friend who happens to own three gorgeous Borzoi dogs- and taking photos of them which she hopes to use on the back cover of her soon-to-be published novella. She watched the dress rehearsal for the Kabaret and enjoyed the finished program that much more after seeing what went into putting it altogether. It was delicious to simply be in my room with her in our down time, playing word games, reading in silence, and talking, talking, talking, about the past and her dreams for the future. My heart feels full up until I see her when she comes back by train for Thanksgiving. My older daughter and my son-in-law graciously hosted us all in their new home.

Today I am grateful that my old skills are being put into use in a new environment. I think of my little girl self, dancing to my mother’s songs. I imbibed music in my household though I never studied music properly. I remember my mother sitting me down at the piano a few times and saying, “Judi, this is a triad, and that makes a chord…” and me running away from her. My brother was a serious musician who wrote orchestral music, played both piano and oboe, and later went to to Yale graduate school for music. He had a Fulbright scholarship to study choral conducting in Munich. I felt it was too much pressure for me to compete with them and turned to dance instead. My other brother was also a musician and played both drums and guitar throughout his life. I took to writing songs when I was a teenager and played guitar just well enough to provide a musical structure for my melodies. But I played ‘by ear’ alone, still refusing to learn the basics.

To be known for singing now is amusing to me. I don’t have a great voice but I do know how to perform and since I don’t score my own music, if I don’t sing my songs, nobody else will. I am touched that my new community loved my efforts and enthusiastically joined in the chorus I taught them. Somehow, my music is being drawn forth after a long dormancy and I am very grateful to have something to share with my new larger family as well as my own family, of Bachrach+Stojakovic.

4 thoughts on “Reconfiguring a Family

  1. Keep on singing, Judi, it’s great for the mind and the spirit! Bless you (and the cool fall weather that brings you some relief). Happy to hear you had some quality time with your family.

    Best,

    Anne

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  2. Oh I’m so jealous of everyone who got to hear you sing Judi! I have the best memories of your beautiful lyrics and voice in the Albert Room.

    Keep singing! Much Love, Val

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  3. Found your blog today, so glad I did. (I’m the “older brother”) Music for me turned out to be more a distraction than a vocation, and those like you who play be ear are the real thing anyhow. A reporter once asked of the great Louis Armstrong, “Do you read charts (music)?” “Not enough to hurt my playing,” he answered. Yours is the song, always was.

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