A few weeks ago I stayed home with my ailing grandfather while the rest of the family went out to some Colombian restaurant. Something very interesting happened that day, and it's something that I can't help but write about.
First of all, you should know that my grandfather has very late stage Parkinson's disease and is practically bed bound or chair bound. He can no longer really talk, and when he tries it comes across as mumbling or just groans. In recent months he's been sleeping most of the day and fairly unresponsive. There are times of lucidity for him, but even then, it is extremely difficult to communicate with him.
The day I stayed with him my mother asked me to sit in the kitchen to be able to keep better watch of him. I was able to do so since that day I only really had to work on copying transcriptions, and that could be done anywhere. So, we put on the TV to the channel that plays music all the time, this time to the classical music channel. At a certain point my grandfather started making some noise, possibly to try to say something, but there was no way I could understand it.
Suddenly, the Brandenburg Concerto #3 by JS Bach came on. I was pleased since I know and love that piece, but I was more surprised by my grandfather's reaction. He sat up and listened, with his eyes open. I couldn't believe it, and it almost brought me to tears, as is writing this now. I stood next to him while the piece played, and he looked at me and acknowledged me. I asked him if he remembered this piece and with just the slightest nod he was able to convey a yes.
Memories flooded my mind. I remembered when I was younger sitting in his office and talking with him about so many things. We would talk about chess, God, medicine (he was a veterinarian) and so many other things, not the least of which was music. He knew I was a musician. He'd seen me singing in church at 3 years old. He'd seen me playing piano and trumpet. We'd talked so much about classical music, hymns and different instruments. I know he had a love for music and a true appreciation for it. I remember playing through some violin pieces that he had on the piano and discussing it with him. It was a bond we shared. Hearing that piece on the TV with him being so aware of it instantly reminded of him in my life.
Sadly, it also reminded me of him not in my life. I realize he will die one day, but even now he is not as I remember him. That day I missed him. I was standing right next to him, but I missed him. I believe that he is still there. I believe that his mind is still probably working, at least close to what it used to be. The tragedy is that we can't communicate with him, or him with us, the way we would like. I miss that. When I first moved here to Florida he was still able to stand, albeit with the aid of a walker. He would listen to me as I practiced my upright bass and a few times I would stand him up and let him play it. Now, sadly, that's not possible.
I was talking with a friend of mine about this the other day, and he commented on how interesting it is that music can communicate where words cannot. True. Still, I miss my grandfather, even though he's right here.