Something happy

joyful tears

The Cleveland Orchestra opened its 2022 Blossom season with the Gulda Cello Concerto with Wind Orchestra. Because the concert was on July 2nd, it was only fitting that they would begin the season with something fun, whimsical, Sousa-esque. There were times I felt like I was at a rock concert, and the cello sounded like an electric guitar under the command of Mark Kosower. The final march definitely put us in the 4th of July mood, and everyone around me had a grand old time! It was also the first concert that Jeff would play after the ordeal he endured from his emergency vascular event. When the surgeon cleared Jeff to play the Blossom season, I imagined what it would like to hear him play live again… I knew it would be an emotional experience, and I wondered what piece I would hear him play. Never did it cross my mind that it would be this crazy and eccentric piece.

The thing about it, though, is that the selection of Gulda was a blessing in disguise. As rambunctious and fun and silly at time that piece was, I was in tears the whole time. I watched Jeff go through his stage routine, scraping on his reeds, visiting with his colleagues, and joyfully getting ready for his first concert back. And when I heard Jeff play, it was surreal. Is this really Jeff, playing? Am I so fortunate that I get to hear him play again? As the piece progressed, I thought about what it took for us to get here from that scary day on March 25th. From the shock upon hearing the news to relief and sheer giddiness of knowing that Jeff survived the surgery… and then the small steps we took in the ICU to the regular hospital floor, to the month-long brain fog from the anesthesia to the nosebleed episode in the middle of the night, etc. Somehow, it is 3 months later, and Jeff is playing a concert. The camera zoomed in on Jeff’s face during his solos, showing me the expression that I was so familiar with. It was something I didn’t know I would see again, and something I will never take for granted. I was in a joyous mood with everyone else at Blossom, but I was also probably the only one crying. And can you imagine what might have happened if the piece Jeff played was something sublime or transcendental? Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler, etc.? I would have been an absolute mess! So I am thankful that I got to smile and chuckle through the tears because this Gulda was just so… fun.

I will say one last thing for this post, this time not as a wife but as a singer. We singers focus on the breath. It is everything. It is what sustains life, of course, and the thing that brings life to a musical phrase. What we sing becomes an extension of our existence. And so it must be with woodwinds… That evening, the sound of the oboe and the breath that gave it life was all Jeff, his life spared, and the breath of God that sustains him.

He’s back, folks!

Resuming normal life

so, how does your wife feel about that?

It will be 3 months tomorrow since that scary day when Jeff went into emergency vascular surgery. And during those 3 months, Jeff has been able to recover at home, slowly build his strength, get his golf swing back, and regain his stamina. We both know that he is almost there – we are so thrilled, grateful… and other words that cannot possibly describe in full how we truly feel.

But the operative word for me is “almost.” Getting back to normal, the way life was for us before the incident feels like an asymptotic journey… I’m always getting closer but will I arrive at place where I don’t worry anymore? Where I don’t even think about where he is, how tired he might be, whether or not he’s been standing too long, out too long, etc. I even worry when I see him napping – did he overdo it? Why does he need a nap? Nevermind that I need naps from time to time just from the stress of living a normal life. He’s allowed to nap like a normal person!

Next weekend, on July 2nd, Jeff will play his first concert, and that will be a huge victory. It will feel like his triumphant return from battle, and I will be there celebrating it. I know that he is excited to play the oboe again, and I cannot wait to hear him spin out beautiful phrases in that tone so rich and full that it stops time for me, no matter how many times I’ve heard it. I need to make a mental note not to worry but to be in that moment, and to fill that experience with gratitude rather than my own anxiety. That first concert back will be a musical celebration of all that we have been given, the gift of life, the gift of hope and of renewed love.

Over time, I will worry less and less, and one day, I will find that I am not worried at all. I guess these first steps to doing normal things again, reclaiming the life that we had before, those are the most daunting. Once we take the first step, the subsequent steps will return like a breeze… like riding a bicycle. As the saying goes… I only know in theory because I never learned how to ride a bike, and trying to ride one is never a breeze for me! In fact, I can only make left turns on a bike. But that’s for another post, perhaps.

Just before performing Bach together at St. Paul’s for Christmas 2018