I had my first piano lesson on Wednesday. Well, it wasn’t my really my first lesson. That happened when I was in the second grade. At the time, my dad was the pastor of a small Methodist church in West Texas, and one of the church members had volunteered to give me lessons on the church piano (we lived in the parsonage out back). Her name was Linda. I loved her. She was young and made my lessons fun. She rewarded me with plastic statues of Beethoven and Mozart and helped me prepare a song to play for the church Christmas program. Then she got married and moved away (at least I think that’s what happened), and for another year or so my mother took me to town to lessons with the Buffords. They were an elderly brother and sister team. She taught students to play on the grand piano downstairs, and he taught theory on an upright piano upstairs. Both were visually impaired, and so being a typical third-grader, I stuck my tongue out at them when they chastised me for not practicing or doing my theory homework. (I wish I could go back in time and give my nine-year-old self a smack on the butt.) After the third grade, my dad left the ministry and we no longer had access to a piano, so my lessons came to an end. I’ve always wished I had learned to play. Really play, not just peck out notes on the treble clef.
This past summer I watched a documentary about how music affects memory, and I had the epiphany that I should take piano lessons again. I know I’m no musical genius—if I’d shown signs of being remotely talented or dedicated, my parents would have bought me a piano—but I could learn to play just for my own enjoyment and to keep my brain healthy. I put out an ISO message to my neighborhood and found a lovely lady who gives lessons in her living room. We met a couple of weeks ago, and then I returned on Wednesday for my first lesson. She had purchased an adult beginning piano book for me. I’m pretty sure it’s the same as my first kid’s book but with a different cover. I worked my way through “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “Ode to Joy.”
The second thing that happened to me on Wednesday was also a first. I picked up my new hearing aids. If you’re thinking, Oh, she’s much too young to need hearing aids, you are RIGHT except that apparently I do. I was made aware of this four years ago by an ENT after his audiologist tested me. At the time I was only 52. I told the doctor, “People can just yell at me for a few years just like I did for my older relatives.” But when I went in for my annual checkup a few weeks ago, my GP asked about my hearing issues, and when I restated my position that people could accommodate me for now, she said, “Okay, as long as your family isn’t complaining about it.” Well, shit, I thought. The nurse did a screening test, then brought in her computer to show me how small the new hearing aids are. She assured me that nothing shows your age more than yelling, “Huh?” all the time. And so I followed up with an audiologist at Costco (seriously, forget Amazon, Costco has everything we need) and ordered a set of Resound hearing aids. They were ready for me to pick up on Wednesday afternoon. The audiologist calibrated them for me, then showed me how to use the app on my phone to adjust them and how to cover them with my hair. As I walked out of the store, I heard every beep of the register scanners.
I didn’t intentionally start piano lessons and get hearing aids the same day—Wednesday just happened to be the day that both the piano teacher and audiologist had availability—but the juxtaposition of the two events was striking. As someone in my fifties, I hear a lot of encouraging messages. IT’S NEVER TOO LATE! YOU’RE AS YOUNG AS YOU FEEL! YOU’RE NOT GETTING OLDER, YOU’RE GETTING BETTER! Sometimes that’s true. I believe I will learn to play the piano, at least enough to entertain myself and not torture Dave and the dogs. But as far as my hearing, those high pitches are gone, and I will never get them back. Physically my best days are behind me. Most days I can avoid thinking about it, but every now and then a day like Wednesday comes along to remind me.