Returning to Me
As each day of ClarinetFest passes, I feel like I am returning to me, returning to the Denise before Mom’s fall. Even my best friend, Diane, just remarked that I seem like the old Denise again…much different from when she came to Birmingham last Saturday evening…I was a scattered wreck, with my emotions very close to the surface. We joked that she practically had to lead me around by a leash.
Don’t get me wrong- I am still a bit distracted, sneaking off to pay bills for Mom, calling periodically, hoping she will remember how to answer the cell phone, and worrying when she doesn’t pick up. But…it’s getting better. I am immersed in the conference, attending inspiring concerts and lectures, attending my first Board meetings, shadowing to learn the duties I will assume in September as Secretary of the ICA. I feel my brain slowly letting go of the worry, wrapping itself back around the career I dedicated my life to so many years ago.
The best medicine, however, has been laughter. Thanks to Diane, I have laughed more in the past few days than I have in months; deep, tear-inducing, belly laughter that makes my knees weak and produces the occasional snort…that makes us laugh even more. This always happens when we get together, made more rich by almost thirty years of shared experiences, inside jokes, and similar goofy personalities. Being at a clarinet conference helps, too- Have you ever hung around clarinetists? We are a geeky, wacky bunch. Most of those stereotypes about us are true, I’m afraid.
The other huge factor in helping me to let go has been the group of angels I have dubbed ‘Dorothy’s Crew’. The friends who are visiting with Mom each day, sending me texts with updates and photos of her antics. Hearing the sound of Mom’s voice, full of excitement as she tells me about “her boy” Lindsey programming her phone to dial me by pressing one key (“He is one handsome young man, Neese!”), sweet Jacquelyn wheeling her outside or making sure she got her oxygen treatment, Lisa bringing her beautiful Lab to visit, and how Lea (the Lab) jumped on the bed with her. She is having a ball, feeling loved, feeling secure. Lisa told me that Mom did her special ‘counting to one hundred in German’ today (Tennessee German, that is)…Lisa is a saint. Oh, how wonderful this all is, and what a relief. Mom told me tonight that she misses me, but I feel secure that she is just fine until I get home.
Diane did a fabulous job on her presentation today- I was very proud of her. She can be goofy one moment, and then become the consummate professional the next. Our shared presentation on the collaborative teaching we have been doing with our two clarinet studios through Facebook is on Saturday afternoon. We love finding ways to work together, and this research project has wonderful opportunities to expand into other presentations. Anytime we get to be together is a good thing, as Lincoln, Nebraska, is so far from Birmingham. People always seem to enjoy our collaborations, as I think our mutual love and respect for each other…and our sense of humor, shine through. We aim to please.
Laughter truly is the best medicine- along with being able to step away from the stress and regain perspective. Being in the middle of the storm was overwhelming, but this week of regaining my sense of self will help so much in making me a better caretaker, wife, friend, musician…a better me. And that’s a good thing. Mom often says that being silly has gotten her through the tough times…more and more I realize the importance of the example she has set for me. Quite a tough act to follow, but I will do my best.