And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infest the day
Shall fold their tents like the Arabs
And as silently steal away.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Day Is Done
My mother was an amazing person and probably the most influential on my life and certainly on my values and outlook. My mother died several years ago at the age of 93. She was remarkable for many reasons, not the least of which having raised five children, four of them boys, while moving the family from Oklahoma to Nebraska to Oregon to California and finally to Idaho over the course of her life from 1915 to 2008.
But one thing about my mother’s life has haunted me over the past few years, and that is her battle with dementia and alzheimer’s as she aged. While this is not so unusual in people who live a long time now days, her situation was remarkable in one aspect. While she couldn’t remember the names of her children or even her husband’s name, she could still play Beethoven on the piano from memory!
I recall visiting her in Idaho at my brother’s home where she was staying about a year or two before she died. In the little apartment above the garage she had her piano and nearly every afternoon I would hear beautiful piano music dancing in the air. She was rapidly losing her memory of people and time, but not of her music. My mother had been a piano teacher, choir teacher and organist at church for most of her life and it was she who introduced me to classical music at an early age. By far her most favourite piece of music, which her choirs performed every Christmas, was Handel’s Messiah.
One day my very young daughter sat down beside Grandma and they played the piano together for what seemed like hours, giggling, laughing and hugging. I believe Stephanie, my now 13-year-old classical violinist got much of her musicality from my mother, maybe through genetics but certainly by osmosis as well.
So does anyone know how the brain (or better yet the mind) functions such that my mother couldn’t recall names or faces but could recall Beethoven sonatas? I’m certain there is chemistry and neuroscience involved in the explanation, but I also believe love of music is somehow a contributor as well.
Memory, sweet but fragile memory!
Tight Lines . . .
John R Childress