The funeral was over. Everyone had gone home—back to Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington. Only my sister Laura stayed with me in the house as I began my widow’s journey.
We were listening to a Leonard Cohen cd after cleaning up, eating a leftover sandwich, drinking a glass of wine.
We said goodnight and went to bed around eleven. It was OK. I had Laura in the house with me. I fell asleep.
Out of my dream I heard the familiar lyrics . . . So long, Maryann . . .
I got up. It’s time that we began . . .
The words, the voice, sounded to me like a lullaby. I smiled.
To laugh and cry and . . .
Laura was already in the hall, heading for the cd player in the dining room.
“Did you turn this on?” she asked.
“No,” I said.
She turned off the cd player. She took out the cd. She unplugged the cord.
We went back to bed.
So Long Maryann was not the first song on that cd. We checked the next day. It was number five or six.
Laura was freaked out.
I was comforted.
This morning I went to Hickey’s music store and bought a Yamaha P-95 digital piano, which came in three huge boxes and had to be assembled. The guy at Hickey’s helped me get the boxes into my Honda Element—he was relieved when he saw the car, which is like a big empty box when you put the seats up—but there was no one at the other end to help.
Instead of doing weight training with my hand weights and instructional dvd this afternoon, I carried those boxes one by one into the living room, opened them all, and assembled my digital piano with its sturdy stand and three foot pedals.
It took a little over an hour, and at the end I had used all but a couple of the parts. There was one screw that wouldn’t go in, but the piano felt sturdy enough.
Then I got to sit down and play it.
My granddaughter Rachel is the one taking piano lessons. I bring her each week and marvel at her progress. She has a natural talent for it.
Rachel started lessons last summer. I always sit in the room with her each time, absorbing what the teacher tells her. Watching the two of them make music together gave me a craving to play myself.
Can you learn to play the piano at my age?
The teacher told us about a new student of hers—a 70-year-old woman—as if this was quite amazing. We would meet and talk to the woman on occasion when she had her lesson before Rachel’s.
It was obvious from the teacher’s comments that this old woman was quite a challenge to teach, but that her goal of playing the piano was a courageous and admirable pursuit.
So about three months ago I bought a cheap keyboard, picked up the same lesson books Rachel was learning from, and started practicing on my own. I did not tell the teacher.
My mother played the piano. One of her favorite pieces was Musikee, Musikee—a Czech song my grandmother had loved.
We would all stand around the piano and sing while my mother played.
Another of her favorites was The Tennessee Waltz.
I don’t know that I will ever play Musikee, Musikee on my new piano. The sheet music for it disappeared long ago. But I hope to some day play The Tennessee Waltz.
I listen to Leonard Cohen sing it on a cd I have in my car.
I can cry listening to it.
So long, Maryann.
*There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in: Lyrics by Leonard Cohen.