I heard a piano playing.
I recognized the hymn, despite the missed note here and there. Probably coming from the gathering place where the residents sit in wheelchairs on Sunday afternoon and listen to the local Church of Christ preacher.
Except I had already passed the gathering place. The piano sounds were coming from down the hall.
She sat in her doorway in her wheelchair, the keyboard resting on the armrests. She kept playing as I approached.
That’s really very good, I said.
She laughed but she didn’t look up. She was unable to raise her head. She looked at the floor as she spoke.
I play by ear, she said. I can’t read music.
Then I noticed the plastic rat sitting on the keyboard. It was so out of place that I couldn’t bring myself to ask about it. I should have. There’s probably a good story to go with it.
This hand doesn’t work very well, she said as she held up her twisted right hand.
Well, you sound great.
And she did. Not that she was going on tour anytime soon, but I’d love to be able to play at her level.
I went on.
While I was visiting, I heard her playing. One hymn after another.
And then there was Bach. Unmistakable.
The rhythms and the patterns of the master composer. And a familiar tune. Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. Another hymn, of sorts.
As I was leaving, she had quit playing but was still sitting in her doorway.
I heard you playing Bach, I said.
Bach? As if she didn’t know who I was talking about.
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, I said
She laughed. That’s Bach?
She laughed again. Good old Bach, she said. Good old Bach.