Friday, February 8, 2013

TING AND I, New Year's Eves, Music


At Ledgewood Commons, Millwood, NY, we often celebrated New Year’s Eve with best friends Wendy and Zane, Ruth and Mal. Smart, compassionate, loyal, they have been treasures. Twenty-five years later, they still stay in touch and visit when they can.

Wendy Garfein’s write-up, in the Tributes section below, mentions these New Year’s Eve get-togethers. Without these four special friends now, Tina and I wrap up New Year’s Eve an hour early, celebrating on Atlantic Standard Time, synchronized with our Canadian “cousins” in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. We sing “Auld Lang Syne” with the nurse on duty and thank God for another year.

Resolutions are few, if any. Making it through another year will be success enough.


As noted elsewhere here, Tina was an accomplished pianist, good enough to have debuted on stage with the Rochester Civic Orchestra in 1962. She found the courage to play, despite the stage-fright and natural shyness that made this a tense proposition. She had studied for twelve years at the Eastman School of Music, one of the nation’s finest. She continued that interest for decades. Even now, unable to move arms or fingers, she will ask to be brought to the piano or to our small electronic keyboard to play. We have to tell her that this awaits a breakthrough in the treatment of her MS. She accepts this, reluctantly. It makes me very, very sad.

Once Tina became bedridden, paraplegic, a principal source of entertainment for her was the television set in her room. We bought lots of tapes, CDs, and DVDs for her to enjoy. Before becoming quadriplegic, she could use a remote control, use a call button to summon help and pick up the phone to make or take a call. She lost all those sources of her limited independence in February 2004. We have tried to be alert to her needs, but she often has to wait patiently while something else is being attended to. “Tina comes first, but everybody counts” is our motto, to set priorities and maintain perspective.

Today, Tina often chooses to watch one of the digital music channels, Light Classical, Classical Masterpieces, or Easy Listening. Her favorite CD is Leonard Bernstein’s conducting of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Tina and I enjoy the same kind of music and have spent some happy times side by side in her bed listening to or watching an orchestral performance.

While of elementary school age, I was given the opportunity to take piano lessons from the wife of a professional musician who lived near us on Riverside Drive. She taught me the basics, but my unwillingness to practice killed this endeavor after six months or so. I gave up piano to have greater proficiency at stick-ball, played on the street by the corner of Riverside Drive and 181st Street. I should have stayed with piano. My mother would play some of Grieg’s Piano Concerto on the upright piano in our living room, and I really liked that dramatic work. She kept playing into her 80s, with popular tunes and Christmas carols replacing classical pieces.

In high school, I became competent on a much simpler instrument, the tuba. The tuba is the lowest of the brass section of the orchestra, analogous to the double bass in the string section. In concert, it sits on your lap. Wrapped around you, for marching, it is a sousaphone, named after that Sousa. Woody Allen claimed he had always wanted to play the cello in a marching band. The sousaphone was only slightly more portable.

Recently, Tina offered to have us buy a tuba for me, if I’d like. I declined, but it was a typically sweet offer from her.

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