IFC S1 R38 - Motivation/Inspiration - "A Day in a Human Life"
"A Day in a Human Life"
This was written four years ago - capturing the moment
Had such a special moment today. Historical moment in a human life. My son found his own music today! It was only recently that we learned he could not read music - after 2 years of violin lessons - he had become so adept at playing what he heard that it was a shock to us and his new instructor that he was playing strictly by ear. In these last few months he has worked so hard learning to read music which has made a world of difference...but, it's been challenging, not particularly 'fun' and tedious. His teacher is in the NC Symphony and has traveled all over the world playing...very talented, amazing human being but also takes her craft very seriously and expects her students to adhere to the same caliber - stand this way, hold the bow that way, hold your violin this way, etc. This has also been an added challenge, having to basically re-learn 'everything'. It truly hurt me to see him struggling so hard, not knowing where this would lead. Whether good or bad for him with everything he's been through.
But this last week, I heard something different coming from his playing I had not heard before...a confidence, strength and a 'joy'. I was feeling hopeful.
TODAY, when we went for his lesson, I was quite excited for Petia to hear this 'new' side of my son coming out. She has so often looked him in the eyes and said, "I believe in you...you can do this...I see it in you!"
He walked in the room where Petia stood waiting with her normal serious demeanor and with a hand gesture sat me down in a chair in the corner with my youngest son. She tunes my son's violin and then hands it to him with barely a smile on her face. "And, what will you be playing for me today?", She asks. He very confidently chooses a piece and begins to play and then suddenly Petia joins him in what I can only describe as perfect harmony. BEAUTIFUL! The piece is over and Petia just starts balling..."I have waited my whole career for this kind of moment...I am blown away...you went from beginner violinist to THIS....You just jumped to a whole new level." My son's face was beaming from inside out.
Then they continued on a few more pieces together, both smiling as they played. And as if some inner voice or instinct told her to, she dropped out of the piece and backed away leaving my son to basically 'fly' with his own heart. I don't know how she knew that this was 'that moment', but somehow she did. And something in my son recognized this moment, too. With his violin's lone voice, he suddenly stood taller, held his instrument like he owned it and played with so much intensity and grace that I couldn't believe this was my child standing there. Actually, he wasn't my child in that moment. I was looking at an emerging person - this very strong and impressive presence...a glimpse of something I have no words for...perhaps the man he will grow into one day.
As he played and I looked up into his face, I saw his eyes squinting and blinking and thought, "Oh maybe I need to have his eyes checked." (the Mommy in me :) ) but before I could finish that thought, his little face started to get splotchy and his chin started to quiver. This is when I realized what I was witnessing was that he was 'feeling' the music and was moving his own soul. I felt that all familiar wave of emotion welling inside of me, so very grateful to be present for this moment - so moved.
He finished the piece and looked at me real quick and giggled...then took a long, deep breath and I said, "I think you just experienced your own music and you were moved by it." He couldn't talk...he just gave a long "yes", deep breath and the biggest smile I've ever seen. We all had to wipe our eyes a few times. Petia told him how special this day was and that she was going to write the date down in her journal.."this is a historical day!"
Then she told him, "Until this day we've had lessons...today...we played music together." :) Whoa...To me this is what life is about..these very special moments when we are moved from within...when we are aware of who we are on the deepest level of this human life. For my son it was music, to others it may be art, writing, etc...or something as simple as witnessing human kindness. Or like me, a mom...witnessing my child connect with music and blossom right before my eyes. I am so very grateful that I was conscious enough to see this. What a gift.
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This day alone would have been enough to last me a lifetime of inspiration. However, this is only part of the story that led to this day.
When my son was 4 years old, we were at a birthday party and an older child (much older) jumped on him while he was inside one of those balloon jumping gyms. We had always been extra protective parents, but the last 5 minutes he came to us and wanted to go inside with his little friends and so we relented, letting him go while watching for him to come out the other side. This did not happen. One of his friends emerged telling us that he was hurt and could not move. As we rushed him to the hospital, we found out that his arm was broken.
This would begin our nightmare as parents.
He wore his cast for the allotted time, but when it came off I noticed a bulge on top of his arm. We had 5 doctors in all that would look at his arm and all said that it was fine. I accepted their explanation that he was just too small and that it wouldn't be noticeable when he started developing muscles - that bone creates fibers as it heals and this was 'normal'. But it never felt right with me.
I always watched that arm when he played or gestured, keeping an eye on it waiting for that bulge to be buried under muscle, but it never did. My husband and I had many conversations about it and he always reassured me that he thought it was fine. After all, we had so many doctors look at it. Surely it was fine, right?
Two years later, he was leaning back on his arm and I 'knew'! It was as if his arm was on backwards. Something was horribly, horribly wrong. I made an appointment with a pediatric orthopedic specialist from one of the best medical hospitals in the country immediately (which happened to be an hour away).
X rays revealed that he was wrongly diagnosed (by 5 doctors!). His tendon was balled up in the back of his elbow and the ulna was displaced from the socket and growing outside of it. Due to not having surgery at the time of injury, his arm grew in such a way that he would have life-long pain, injuries and surgeries...he would eventually lose the use of his arm (His right arm, to be exact).
It would be a 9 hour surgery. My husband and I were lost in a fog of grief, worry and disbelief. "I don't understand....I don't understand...this can't be happening." I kept repeating -as if saying this would somehow present some intervening miracle phone call from the operating room. "How could such a little body be under anesthesia for 9 hours?! Something is wrong!"
The doctor finally emerged through a side door - noticeably fatigued with that same expressionless face she had when giving us his diagnosis. "I managed to stretch the tendon and reconnect it, but the ulna and socket were much more difficult. I was able to remove enough to get the bone in the socket - my original diagnosis still stands." Not exactly what we wanted to hear.
I don't think we slept for 3 months. Our son didn't do well with anesthesia, his pain was hard to manage for many weeks and the worry we felt was overwhelming. He was in a cast from the his fingers to his shoulder. This massive appendage of plaster that resembled a club invading every minute of his life (hugs, bath-time, eating, dressing,etc). And during this time, we found out who our true friends were. As my youngest son would say, "Mommy, it's too hebby" and people started dropping like hot cakes out of our lives. That was also difficult to comprehend.
As well, our son's surgeon barred him from playing outside or rough housing with other kids. This further isolated him from other children and his brother. It was all about 'the arm' and keeping it protected.
These changes presented far more than the physical
School became a big problem.. Obviously he could not 'write' with his clubbed arm during this important developmental stage of his education. Despite hours of working with him every night to use his left arm, it was just too difficult and a struggle. It took hours to get one sentence and as he fell behind, the parent/teacher conferences increased. The feedback during these conferences were brutal, uncaring, disconnected -"something is wrong with your son", "He doesn't look us in the eye or seem to connect in any way", "We're not impressed and see no progress". This was certainly not our experience with him - he was a silly, happy, imaginative giggle box of love that thrived on 'interacting'. In fact, I would say 'too much so' that it was hard to get him to go to bed at night because he didn't want to miss out on interactions. However, it was possible that his circumstance was causing problems while at school.
Nothing made sense and everything was upside down and a pressure-cooker of uncertainties
In the meantime, we were continuing with follow-up appointments with his surgeon on the progress of his healing. Her deadpan expression and solemn look continued.
However, one day she uncharacteristically greeted us with a smile. She closed the door behind her and very animatedly said, "I don't want to get your hopes up, but I heard there is a procedure that two doctors are performing on this type of injury with great success. They won't talk about with anyone, it is not in the medical journals and it is 'experimental' at this point but I've heard through the grapevine that every case has been successful. Just to be clear, I don't want to get your hopes up as I don't know exactly what they are doing - I need to know right now if you would be open to something experimental." Then she continued, "If you are interested, I will jump on a plane right now and fly out there and sleep on their front lawns if I have to in order to get them to share their procedure - and I won't leave until they do." She was smiling ! In my heart, I knew this was right but my head was saying 'this is scary...caution, caution, caution'.
The hard reality was that given the situation, we had nothing to lose and everything to gain - quite possibly his only chance of having use of his arm. We agreed and waited with baited breath for her two week return.
She did, in fact, stalk and pin down these doctors and was successful in gaining their knowledge in this promising, new experimental procedure. Her enthusiasm immediately filled us with hope, "I can do this, it will work...I feel good about this...piece of cake!!!" She wanted to perform surgery that very next week, it was moving so fast!
His arm was cut and separated into 4 sections held together by rods, plates and screws. The space between the 4 sections of bones were a precise distance apart in order for the bone to magically send signals to the other/'communicating' across the space and basically building a bridge. The space/bridge would eventually fill in with bone over time. In essence, his body would build a brand new arm!
Another 9 hour surgery! This time, we waited with hope. This time, we got that halfway mark phone call, "Things are going really well."
It would take another year (two years total) with one additional surgery (6 hours) to remove all the hardware. We continued to struggle with his school and the demeaning teachers that just stuck him in the back of the room - under-estimating, under-value-ing him with such disconnection and non-caring slowly eroding away his confidence.
The toll from this was great on our family. However there were many human angels that rose to the occasion in this journey, going far above and beyond what any normal person would do. Our son had a new arm and he would NOT spend the rest of his life in pain and in operating rooms. Our last step would be the rehabilitation phase to determine his 'range of motion' after so much trauma to the arm. That too, went very well. Happy ending achieved ;)
With that, I realized that our whole family needed some rehabilitation and much needed healing. I decided, with the agreement of our boys, that we would take a break from this school environment and try homeschooling for a year - just have fun while catching up on two years lost.
The shift was immediate and overwhelmingly positive
Barely into our first few weeks, my son came to me and said, "I think I would like to take violin...can you set that up for me?" :)
This story could have gone in so many other directions and paths than it did. Which is why I find it inspirational and motivational. I think most inspirational stories have some element of tragedy and struggle because often life gives us these lessons and it's through these times that we grow the most and discover who we are.
Each one of us, individually, could have become stuck in the sludge of negative people/experience, fear and overwhelming difficulty that enveloped this chapter of our lives but it was actually our love for each other, the good in people, determination...hope... that helped us through. There would be no moment like the one had there not been this experience and our son's amazing will to 'feel' his own music.
Petia and one very happy student "violist"
Petia Radneva-Manolova - a master violinist, child prodigy from her native land of Bolgaria with a lineage of violists. The connection between these two was instant.