A New Dream “Surgery? Are you kidding?”
Not exactly what you’re meant to say to a doctor, and this guy who’d been affable until that moment looked dubious, squinting and his whole body shifting away from me as if I were mildly toxic. The neon lights in his office seemed to glow a lot brighter and I felt exposed and scared. I though the X-ray I’d asked for to explore the chronic pain in my right hand would only reveal arthritis, but there were bone chips and bone spurs and pretty serious deterioration.
I went blank for a while as he explained the options, but I was fully alert when he said, “It’ll hurt like hell afterwards, you’ll need physical therapy, recovery takes about a year. Oh, and your pinch strength won’t really come back like it was.”
Well, damn. I’d been talking to cello-playing friends about starting to take lessons and I realized that my long-held dream was shot.
My mother forced me to take piano lessons for years and while I had “feeling,” according to my teacher, she and I both knew I didn’t have the technique or the passion for playing. But over the years, I fell in love with the cello hearing different movie scores and through CDs of composers like Brahms and thought that in my sixties it would be a good time to take up the instrument—for fun, for a hobby, for something new.
Well, I did go ahead with the surgery and it did relieve my pain but left me adrift. I felt the urge to do something musical but what instrument could I play with a bum hand? Then a pianist friend suggested voice lessons and I felt like a kid discovering a mountain of Christmas presents just for him under the tree.
My local university had a community music school, lessons with faculty were inexpensive, and the school was a five-minute drive from my house. I knew I was in the right place when my cherubic teacher, Natalie, tested my range, had me try some exercises, and kept smiling. Real smiles. “You can sing,” she said. “You’re a baritone and there’s lots of repertoire available. What would you like to start with? ”
And the lights in the little studio seemed warm and comforting.
Lev Raphael is the author of 27 books in many genres and mentors, coaches, and edits writers at writewithoutborders.com.