Everyday tasks are oddly frustrating and I find myself often perplexed. I may hold a spoon and wonder if I remember how to use it. At times like this, I set the spoon aside and concentrate on wiggling my fingers. This simple exercise feels familiar to my worried mind. I close my hands into tight fists and then spread them open wide, yearning for the cool touch of ebony and ivory.
I am 28 years old, and have never lost the tingle of nervous energy that electrifies me each time I step onto the stage.
I clench my hands into fists to feel the tension of muscle and sinew, and then relax and wiggle my fingers with a dexterity honed by years of practice. The lights of the stage are warm and bring a flush of color to my otherwise pale complexion. Firmly grounded on the piano bench, I look to the audience and locate my husband’s proudly beaming face.
The heartbeat of the audience is palpable as my hands hover expectantly over the keys. My heart flutters, nervous butterflies attempting an escape, but as my fingers touch the cool ivory, the music takes hold. In a surge of emotion, the notes crash like waves upon my soul. We are transported, my audience and I, to a place far away from this auditorium.
It is raining outside. Sheets of water pour down the windowpanes and pool in the parking lot.
Earlier, I overheard the nurses saying that I am having a good day. I am propped up in bed and seem to be smiling and nodding at all the right moments. The sweet young lady seated next to me squeezes my hand, and seems content to chatter on about her children and their antics. I let her talk, and arrange my face in the best expression of interest that I can muster. And then, she asks me to tell her a story about my son – her father – Frank.
I study her upturned nose. I peer at her familiar heart-shaped face, and I scold myself for not recognizing her sooner. I should have known. I mumble some excuse about being tired, but she squeezes my hand and looks at me in an expectant way that I have seen before on another face, in another time. And so, I close my eyes and try to bring my granddaughter with me.
I am in the kitchen, rolling out dough for a pie crust and listening to the happy sounds of my children playing in the yard.
“This is what heaven must sound like,” I hear myself say.
Frank is climbing up and down the ladder to the tree house, with hopes of training our dog to climb with him. My daughter is up in the tree house too, preparing a royal dinner of leaves and pinecones for her dolls.
Suddenly a shriek, followed by a sickening thump, shatters the idyllic moment and I rush out to find Frank lying on the ground with his arm held at a painful angle. I gather him up and kiss his sweet face. He tells me not to cry. He tells me that he is very brave, and that his arm doesn’t hurt too much, and then he asks me to sing his favorite song.