Welcome to the KingZoo and Funny Farm, where we learn to live, laugh, and love together. Here you'll find snippets of life in our zoo, parenting tips we've learned along the way, reflections on shining God's light in this world, passions in the realm of orphan care, and our journey as parents of a visually impaired child with sensory processing disorder. Have fun!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Beautiful music

When I was young, it was the tradition of the Mennonite churches to support the Mennonite nursing homes (before the term became politically incorrect) by taking turns providing entertainment for the monthly residents' birthday parties. When it was our church's turn, the adults rounded up a bunch of us young'uns who played instruments and instructed us to play for the residents. I'm sure I played for several of these events but the one that was most memorable was the year that I got yelled off the stage.

I must have been about 9 years old and was standing up front playing my violin. A woman in the first row started yelling, "Tell that girl to shut up. Just tell her to shut up." This was in the days before dementia patients were separated from the rest of the residents but I have survived the humiliation by telling myself that this was likely a woman suffering from dementia and she didn't really know what she was saying and thereby didn't really think that I was that awful.

I was reminded of this incident once again when last night we rounded up the members of The King's Strings to play for the residents in the dementia unit at a nearby retirement community. Our children are no strangers to this kind of venue and I am so proud of them for their poise and compassion when confronted with older adults whose behaviors resemble those of young children. There was a woman in the front row who continued to speak out but instead of telling us to leave the stage, she offered repeated votes of confidence. There was another woman in the back who stood up from time to time to conduct our little group. I have to believe that she was a choir director or music teacher at some point in the past. She even came front to stand with us during one song and Andrew, who she chose to stand beside, welcomed her with welcome bow. After the concert the children took the time to walk among the audience and speak to or with the residents. This is definitely part of what it means to look after orphans and widows.

I admit that I am the weak link in The King's Strings so maybe I should take to heart what the woman said so many moons ago. I don't have the cute factor of our younger members who are just learning to play and I don't have the skill of the older ones. Not having learned by the Suzuki method, about the only thing I can play by ear is Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and that's only after having played it with one Twinkler after another for the past 12 years.

So I found myself in a bit of a bind last night when we decided that it wasn't worth packing stands and music for a half hour concert. Standing next to Isaac, I fudged my way through most of it by a combination of air bowing, faulty by-ear playing, and watching Isaac's fingers. I appreciated Isaac's many smiles of love and encouragement even though I'm sure his perfect-pitch ear was ready to whack my fingers a few times with the backside of his bow. In comparison, the Good Doctor is known for telling me to try harder; lecturing that everyone can play by ear if they just put forth enough effort.

So as I'm sure you can see, Isaac's compassion for my predicament was a welcome relief. About halfway through the concert, however, he changed his tune (pun intended) and decided to have a little fun with me. Seeing how I was watching his fingers to determine my finger placement, he decided to play every note with just his first finger. For those not knowledgeable in the playing of stringed instruments, a player usually uses four fingers, his index finger through his pinky, numbered one through four. In this way I was able to watch which finger Isaac had on which string and copy it. By using only his index finger he had to shift, meaning his finger was all over the place on the fingerboard. It was next to impossible for me to determine what note he was playing. Rather than get angry, I thought his joke rather ingenious and told him so. His smirk was priceless and he's been enjoying the joke a bit too much since then.

I went back to air bowing and all was well. And someday, when I'm ready to get back at Isaac, all I have to do is play every night just slightly out of tune. His well-trained ear will cause him all sorts of anguish. I'll just smile and tell him I love him.

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