I’m no Einstein

Our daughter took up violin just last summer.

I recently mentioned to her violin instructor that I’d like to take some lessons as well. I’d bought a violin awhile back, and I’d been practicing along with our daughter. I’d played violin and viola as a boy, when I was about as old as she is now. That was a long time ago. I cannot remember when or why I stopped playing. Was it the bully smashing my violin after school? Was it the move to Africa? Perhaps it was that terrible concert: I was so nervous I could barely play.

I love classical violin; well, romantic violin, to be precise. I’ve always regretted giving up on the violin. It doesn’t help to read about Einstein and his violin. What a pair those two made! So when our daughter expressed an interest in violin, there was no delay. A violin was provided, and shortly thereafter, an instructor.

I’d been doing pretty well during our practices. When I finally got my lesson, I had hardly started playing when our instructor noticed the bow bouncing on the strings. She asked me if I’d seen a doctor about it. She wanted to know whether I was certain that I don’t have a real medical problem. I told her that I don’t think I have Parkinson’s. I’ve always had a tremor; as long as I can remember. I remember that concert. Suddenly I feel like I’ve traveled back in time to childhood. I shrink into a corner as the world expands back to its former proportions.

I’ll bet Parkinson’s is a nightmare, but this is no picnic. I slipped into a funk. The next time our daughter and I practiced, I quit after 30 seconds, and we didn’t practice for another week. I would pick it up when she wasn’t around. I got frustrated immediately. I was ashamed.

My father, a chiropractor, describes that slight tremor as a cerebral palsy. I asked an MD once: he told me: “you shake a little.” Yes, I suppose it doesn’t really matter what you call it.

It can be aggravated by stress, but I don’t always know when the stress is there. It can be rather frustrating when I’m trying to cut my kids’ bangs or finger nails, but I don’t let that stop me.

My daughter recently scheduled a duet for us before several ladies. She had been having a little more trouble with the piece than I had, and just before the performance, she began to get agitated. She was afraid she wouldn’t be able to do it. I told her, “hey, let’s just do it, and if we mess up we mess up. No big deal.” When we began to play, I suddenly couldn’t focus on reading the music. It was as though the notes were slipping around the page; not literally, but I could not get a fix on them. I faltered repeatedly. I’d pick up at the next measure, but I couldn’t concentrate. I was disappointed in myself, but I couldn’t be more proud of her. She just kept going. She played the complete piece without a single pause. She was flawless, in spite of all the distraction that I caused.

She’s a performer, and she’s got one very proud father.