Jonathan reading “A House With Music In It”, “My Father, Humming, II” and “Love Notes” at the My Father, Humming Book Launch at Cummings & Good Studio, in Chester, CT:
Thoughts from the Author on “A House With Music In It:”
In the book, music and sounds are so important—what we are at the core, before words. connecting to something we share, whether with a partner or with anyone. What happens when that is gone? This is where the title comes from: I learned to play the piano late.
Once, when my wife came home, she heard me playing and said, “This is a house with music in it.” That started me thinking. For years, my parents’ house was too—and now it wasn’t. What did that mean to them both?
Thoughts from the Author on “My Father, Humming, II:”
When I realized that my father had dementia, it was a very profound experience. My father and I connected, through the music, as never before.
We are a stubborn family. My father was going to die, rather than let me play this piece the “wrong” way, and I wasn’t going to stop just because he didn’t like it.
My father had to get to the point of death before he could let go of the one “right way”, and realize there might be another way to make music—different music—from the same notes.
At this point, my father was no longer speaking; he was hardly himself. Was he still there? certainly, he was not the person he once had been. Someone who didn’t know him might look at him and think, “There’s not much left of him.” But he still found a way to “make music”—who he was, as a person and a human being, was still there.
Thoughts from the Author on “Love Notes:”
I’ve read this to a theater full of over 700 high school students. Before I did, I talked to them about their grandparents, Alzheimer’s disease, and how some of them may be experiencing a similar decline. While I read, there was not a sound. Afterwards the principal said, “You made everyone cry.” As soon as the program was over, many students came up to me to thank me. I found out later that a number of students went home to talk to a parent about that parent’s parent with Alzheimer’s or dementia — and how often do high school students initiate conversations like that?
After another reading, a young woman came up to me to tell me that her grandfather had Alzheimer’s and did the same thing—left notes all over the house telling his wife how much he loved her. What I thought was my personal experience seems to be more common than I realized.