Connections

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Lola is 12-years old now, and that’s a difficult time in the life of every young girl.  Even Lola, who is amazingly intelligent and independent, is going through that awkward middle school stage of life.  She’s tall and thin, and her body has quickly become something that to her must seem quite unfamiliar.  I have spent the past couple of years equally worrying about how she is adjusting to a new school environment and being impressed with her “old soul” philosophical attitude about most of the challenges she has encountered.

I encouraged Lola to sign up for band this school year.  Unfortunately, she is not able to take both band and choir in this school district, and last year she opted for choir.  While she enjoyed it, I could see that musically, she wasn’t learning much.  She agreed to take band this year, but she was apprehensive about being a year behind the rest of the kids in her class.  I promised her that she would quickly catch up, and she has.

Lola met with her band teacher at the end of last school year to select an instrument.  Anyone who knows our family, or reads my blog, knows that music is a large part of our lives.  I was thrilled to see Lola testing instruments.  Though she asked me repeatedly to advise her on a choice, I kept my mouth shut.  This had to be her decision.  Learning an instrument can become one of the most rewarding things in life, but only if that is a personal choice.  It wasn’t a matter of expense as we own several trumpets, a trombone, two saxophones, three clarinets, and a drum set.  Even if she had selected an instrument that we didn’t own, I would have gladly added to our collection.  She chose the trumpet.  The other kids had all been waiting to hear what Lola chose, each wishing she would pick their instrument of choice. Her big brother Luke, the trumpet player, was thrilled.

If we still lived back home, I would have known any number of people who could teach Lola the trumpet, but we’re not back home.  We’re here, and I didn’t have a clue where to take Lola for lessons.  I looked online for the music center nearest our home and set up an appointment for a lesson.  Lola’s first lesson was several months ago, and I feel incredibly blessed that my random selection set in motion a wonderful chain of events.

Lola is shy, so shy that on the night of her first lesson she begged me not to make her go.  She had a tummy ache from worry, but I promised her that I would stay with her through the entire lesson.  Lola and I waited together for her teacher in the tiny studio lesson room.  When he opened the door, I was stunned.  He was a tiny man well over 70 years old, but his presence filled the room.  His hair was snow white, and his eyes sparkled.  I stared at him in amazement.  He reminded me of the man who introduced me to jazz, Bob DuBois, a trumpet player.  Bob died about a year ago, but the impact he had on so many jazz musician carries on.

Lola’s teacher’s name is Mike.  He has played with some of the greatest names in jazz.  He and I spent part of her first lesson talking about common likes and dislikes while Lola quickly relaxed.  Eventually, Mike turned his attention to Lola, and the lesson began.  Their connection was almost instantaneous.  They made each other smile, and I could see that she wanted learn as much as he wanted to teach.  He offered to take Lola’s trumpet home with him and give it a good cleaning and tune-up.  The next day, Lola and I went to his home, near our own, and her trumpet was shining like new.

That first lesson was months ago, and their friendship has blossomed.  Twice each week, 12-year-old Lola and 70-something Mike, spend an hour together.  Without fail, Lola comes away from each lesson with a smile on her face.  Her confidence in all areas of life has soared.  T and I secretly call Mike Lola’s trumpet therapist, because the change in our daughter has been so positive and dramatic.

Frequently, Mike sends me texts telling me how wonderful Lola is doing, how quickly she is learning.  Just tonight, Mike sent me this text.  “Pam, Lola is doing remarkable work.  I’m not sure if you have heard her lately, but her sound is superb and she is really really getting it.  She is easily my best student.”

Yes, I’m proud that Lola is a good student on the trumpet, but I am incredibly amazed to witness the special relationship that has developed between a young girl and an old trumpet player.  It is readily apparent that they both “needed” this relationship in their lives.  The rapport they have is heartwarming to witness.  I talked to Lola about it tonight, about just how special it is that she and Mike have found each other and this unique connection.  She said, “He’s one of my best friends.”  Wow!  I love this kind of thing.  When people step outside of their comfort zones, whether that be school, work, neighborhood, or even age group, all kinds of interesting people await.  Once again as a parent, I learn another lesson from my child.

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The Commander

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This morning, I received an email from my friend Tom.  Tom is a former fellow band member from back home.  T and I have stayed in touch (somewhat) with Tom and his wife.  He was emailing to tell me that our former bass player, Bob, had recently died.  While that was sad, it wasn’t surprising news.  Bob was well into his eighties, and I had known that his health had been failing.  What surprised me most was that Tom asked me to call him as soon as I had a chance to talk.  I replied that I would give him a call when I headed out for lunch.

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Hiding and Guilt

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Almost a year ago, I met a man.  I was looking for an architect who would do some pro bono work for small, local businesses.  These small businesses were willing to make a financial commitment to their businesses and make physical improvements to buildings in a blighted area.  I wanted to make sure that the end results were beneficial to the district and the business owners.  I wanted to get the most bang for our buck, as my organization was giving out grants to encourage these improvements.  A name of a local architect was recommended to me, and I gave him a call.  From our first phone conversation, we hit it off.  I explained what I needed and what my organization was hoping to accomplish.  He generously offered to meet with building and business owners.  We made an appointment for an initial meeting the following week. Continue Reading »

Laughter

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I’ve recently started doing something that I haven’t done in years.  I’ve been laughing.  The sound often startles me, and the feeling in my belly is a delicious shock.  I lay in bed last night listening to an episode of Frasier playing on Netflix as I fell asleep, and I started laughing.  I jiggled the bed with my laughter.  I couldn’t seem to stop or catch my breath. Continue Reading »

Ah…

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Thankfully, I have been able to string together a few days at work that have been rewarding, productive, and enjoyable.  Although I didn’t get home to stay for the night until after 10:30,  I did sneak out for a few hours late this afternoon to spend some time with the family.  The next few days are going to be full, and I am trying to take it in stride.  It is what it is, and all I can do is hold on tight and make the most of it.  We are in the midst of our summer season at work, and that means we are hosting ten concerts throughout the summer.  So far, the weather has been wonderful.  The volunteers have been happy, and the concert-goers have had a good time.  It’s our fifth season with the summer concerts, and although it takes  time and means extra work, we have gotten things down to a science. Continue Reading »

Momentum

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It is impossible to take steps back in time.  Even when our feet are dragging in the dust, even when we want to go back to the way things once were, the past does not exist in the present moment.   People change, grow up, or sometimes die.  Each moment is unique, and cannot be repeated or recreated.  There is an unseen momentum pushing and pushing us forward and into the next moment.  My past is full of joyous memories, pain and loss, friends and family.  The past is full of people, so many of them now gone from my life.  Thankfully, the  past is also full of people that I am blessed have in my life in the present, too.

The last few years have been so terrible and full of stress.  I’m not sure how to act now that the  immediate crisis has passed.  There are no visits to be made, no phone calls, no arrangements.  Believe me, I am not complaining.  It feels good to have my life back.  My life.   I have my life back, and now I’m just not sure what to do with it.

It seems that I had expected my life as it once was to still be waiting for me, but apparently, time kept marching on while I have been on the hamster wheel these past few years.  I remember where I was, who I was, what I was two years ago.  The problem is, the life I had two years ago no longer exists.  I am no longer that woman.  So who am I now?  That remains to be seen.  As much as I keep peering into the past to find the woman I once was, I won’t find what I’m searching for.  The past shapes who we are in the present.

In the past weeks, I have been both humbled and hurt.  I have been humbled by the kindness of the good people in my life.  I am blessed with wonderful family and  friends.  I have been touched by their genuine concern, love, and support.  Several people I had once thought of as colleagues, became more than that as they reached out to me on a personal level. Others, people I had once thought of as close friends, were nowhere to be seen.  That is the worst part.  It hurts to realize that a relationship once valued was merely a surface friendship, a fair-weather friendship.

I have been thinking a lot about those who have been absent from my life during these past difficult months and especially the past couple of weeks.  While I understand it on some level, a person going through a tough time doesn’t make the best company, it doesn’t make it any easier to accept.  It doesn’t make it hurt less.   These are the kind of things that test a friendship, and sadly, I had a few “friends” that failed that test.  I don’t mean this to sound bitter.  I am looking at this in a sort of philosophical manner.  Perhaps it is these very disappointments in life that enable us to move onto the next phase.  By examining our lives at times like this, we are better able to let go of our past and give into the momentum that continues to push us forward and forward into the future.