Friday, July 1, 2011


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."

Click here to listen to "Maple Leaf Rag."


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  2. Cindy Leiby-SmithMonday, July 04, 2011

    This entry pulled at my heartstrings. I connected to the piano (took lessons from my Mom who paid her way through college by teaching; I certainly wasn't a good student) and to your loss of playing and accepting. But what grabbed hardest was the last line, the unspoken yet identifiable regret that lives to kick us in the pants as we gaze at the footprints we've left on our path.

  3. That is very touching about your dad's request. Carpe diem! Seize the day is a good lesson for everyone.

    Well I think just like the typing you can start at the piano with that moving middle finger..

    I kind of gave up on piano for the moment but maybe I will try again in the fall. It is too frustrating. Even with being able to get my left hand moving now I find I can't get the two hands to coordinate speeds and work together.

  4. Great post. You've got me up and doing things I should have done long ago...

  5. I love your writing - you capture the feelings so beautifully. I have also had some regrets, but am learning to live in today and to try to do what I can make this day as full of love, joy, and action as I can. Because of my broken ankle - 31 years ago - I have not been able to roller skate - one of my former favorite things - but I can swim and move around to music, also things I love to do. Your smile and optimism really inspire me! Love you, Janet