My vibrant soulful kick-ass 87 year old voice teacher has Alzheimers. Since I've been out of touch with her since going all grandma I had no idea how far it had progressed. I ran into K., a fellow student recently while out for a walk and she was strangely vague about L., I thought. She told me that there was going to be an informal musicale at the studio, but before I came, I'd have to check in with G., another of L.'s students, who is managing the schedule. So, it seems she is still 'teaching', however, it is in the realm of the music being something she can access neurologically and she enjoys it—but then, she always did. That was one of the chief delights of being around her, how contagious her enthusiasm was.
I emailed and got the go-ahead to attend the musicale. G. told me to come & have fun, but not expect to have the same experience I was used to. I don't have any face to face experience with this disease. My great-aunt had it, and I think my uncle must have had it, too, from the descriptions. In fact, I do remember one phone call when my aunt was on the line, and Uncle Eddie yelled out in the background 'I'm not nuts!' He loved the exploration of genealogy, so I expect that's what we were talking about—he did the research & my aunt kept track of all the paperwork; at that point he couldn't have a conversation on the phone anymore. She was entering the phase when he was pretty erratic, but still at home.
So I arrived at L.'s house, happy to see many comrades in arms—my friends-in-voice—after this strange hiatus, feeling out of the circle, not really interested much in 'serious' singing, content to listen to my grandson Jake sing 'Wheels on the Bus', and pipe on the kazoo. The familiarity of the studio should have been my warning. It just did not compute that I knew everybody in that space, but turning the corner into the kitchen, the woman standing in front of me smiled & nodded & looked straight through me. No recognition. I hid the feelings in chit-chat with her or in listening to the songs or in getting a hug from M., my old pianist buddy. That didn't change the sense of shock. I really did not want to telegraph how hurt I was. I should be somebody memorable; I must have done something to deserve being erased from her data banks or, if not erased, at least given a ranking lower than readable.
It seems that in order to get past this, I'm going to have to face another demon. Why did I suddenly stop desiring to sing? I used to just open my mouth & out it came. The technique could use some work, but the desire was always simple. No longer. If that is a question with no answer, so be it. It still rankles, though. Like 'didn't you used to be[fill in the blank]? I'm okay with it, but I'm apparently not okay with re-connecting to the people who are still actively keeping L.'s connection to music alive. It doesn't matter that there's no pressure financially (she's not being paid for these sessions), or that you don't even have to actually do anything but be present & maybe be really uncomfortable because there's no real agenda. Just free-floating-I-can-just-do-anything-here kind of feeling. Which when I think about it is exactly what L.'s non-technique technique was all about. Just shut up & sing.
Can I do that?
[to be continued]