Click below to listen to "Maple Leaf Rag."
There was a piano at a party I attended recently. I asked my hostess if she played. "No, but I always wanted to play ragtime," she said. Pre-stroke, I would have sat down right then and pounded out the "Maple Leaf Rag."
The "Maple Leaf Rag" by Scott Joplin was my signature piece. I've been playing it for 30 years. It includes a hand-over-hand run all the way up the keyboard. In my talent show version, my hands kept running until I fell off the piano bench. A comedy routine – my dad's idea.
I didn't even need a piano to play the "Rag." I'd tap it out on my thigh during dull classes or meetings. In the hospital post-stroke, I reviewed the fingering in my mind. The brain doesn't know the difference between imagining and doing, and I hoped that this mental exercise would spur my fingers toward movement.
I have been told that any skill I want to recover will require hours of practice and repetition. I will not take the time to learn to play the piano again. It's a loss, but not a devastating one. I was neither a gifted musician nor an avid one. In fact, I can't remember the last time I played. What I do remember is during my dad's last visit before my stroke, he said, "How about a little Scott Joplin?"
And I said, "Not now."