Tuesday, June 9, 2009


An... "interesting"... weekend. The two biggest end-of-year events at the high school at which I teach are the Baccalaureate service, which I "tech" (setup/run sound/lights), and the commencement, at which I both steer and "am" the music for the ceremony (something I've done for the same school since 1973).

It was very clear from what I had to do, and from the "ease" (insert howls of derisive laughter and smacking of head on the table) with which I distinctly did not do it, that whatever "it" is, I don't think I can do "it" any more.

Baccalaureate setup involved, among many other "fun" activities, dashing from the very back of the auditorium to the very front, multiple times, cane and all; and way, way too much last-minute how-can-we-possibly-get-this-under-control scrambling for all sorts of stuff, including a desperate search for the podium microphone that somehow buried itself inside a pile of cables under the lighting board, which we had to do without and did not find until someone else performed a hands-and-knees search two days later. (We did develop a "plan B" with remarkable alacrity, so we did have sound, fortunately.)

Commencement involved many moments of personal, er, let's call it "excitement," such as repeatedly (read "way, way too many times") stepping into and out of an "organ pit," the organ console having been lowered below the level of the stage so that even though it meant that I could barely get on and off the console and could neither really see nor hear what was going on, the flowers at the edge of the stage could be seen. Ya gotta have your priorities, I suppose...

But anyway, after I creamed my foot very, very badly on the edge of the organ pit during one attempt to climb out, causing me a very "special" kind of pain, pain that oozes its way through the nerve damage to make you think to yourself Y'know, I think this should be hurting a whole lot more than it does... that's probably not good, after which I started crawling out of the pit onto my hands and knees because that was really the only way I could get around safely... and that sort of thing just doesn't make the conductor look (or feel) particularly professional, you know?

And then there was the organ playing. It's a truly marvelous instrument, possibly one of the world's most famous theater organs (it was the world's only portable theater organ for a while, touring the country in five vans) and right now, the folks at the Pasadena Civic tell me that I'm the only one who plays it nowadays, nobody else uses it but our school for our graduation.

But I had a very, very difficult time with the pedals, I just don't have the fine control I used to have, my feet have been pronating (technical term for rotating outwards, Charlie Chaplan's "Little Tramp" style) which means that they want to squish multiple pedals instead of one pedal at a time, and what used to be very, very easy now just... no longer works. I don't think anyone besides me noticed my discomfort or distress or pedalling issues; if there's one thing I've learned how to do, it's to "be convincing," but I noticed. I really noticed.

I very much want to keep the "organ thing" going for as long as I can, and it's going to take some work to do it, and I really really want to keep it up for at least a few more years because pretty soon, I will have played for more than half of the graduations that this school has ever held. But I wonder if last Sunday I didn't see not the light at the end of the tunnel, but the one at the end of the organist's road.

And that, for want of a better word, would suck.

But, as I said the day I got my diagnosis, and this was quite literally the first thing I said: "Well, it was going to be something, eventually." We do not all necessarily arrive at "disabled," but we all will eventually arrive at some form of "no-longer-as-abled," each in our own time. And MS is, in many ways, simply the human condition, just writ so large that we can no longer pretend that such a road is not the one we're already all traveling.

And as my doctor said, "Disease goes straight for attachment." I'm definitely attached to being an organist. I love it. It's going to be very weird dealing with no longer being that. Fortunately, I don't have to deal with that loss today.

But precisely when I will have to deal with it... may not be a time of my own choosing.

And is that not the first lesson of "the human condition?" And thus, the first gift of MS?

No comments: