I think by far one of the most common questions Ivan and I get asked is “How is Grace with music? Can she play the violin again??” For now, the short answer is “No, I can’t.” But, as with most short answers, there is a longer story behind it…
If Ivan put this in one of his early Facebook updates, bear with me, but the day I was hit by a car I was actually walking to go play a concert and was carrying my violin. As you can probably imagine, my violin sustained its own set of injuries, but did survive intact enough that we are hopeful it can be repaired.
When I first woke up in the hospital, even a couple of minutes of listening to music was enough to make me nauseated, and my left hand had no sense of feeling or basic motor skills (for those of you who aren’t musicians, the violin is a left-handed instrument). Given these factors, I was too scared/sad to look at my violin, and my family took it home to save for when I felt well enough to look at it.
Fast forwarding to this February, I have some motor skills in my left hand, but no sense of feeling. I can now listen to pop music and some classical music if it features piano or cello, but my brain is still too sensitive to the high-pitched violin sound for me to listen for more than a couple of minutes (One doctor explained that I could have subconsciously connected carrying the violin to being in the accident, and that it might take some time for my mind to begin treating the violin as a “safe” object again). Nevertheless, last week I finally felt ready to look at my violin and try to see if I could hold it or play it. Looking at it was actually a very positive experience…the damage was significant, but not nearly as bad as I had thought. I borrowed Ivan’s violin (yes, he does in fact have one too!) for the playing experiment, since mine is still waiting to be repaired. As you can see from the picture above, I was able to lift it into position just fine…but after that I quickly discovered that having a numb left hand prevented me from controlling my fingers enough to actually play (this was sad, since I’ve been playing for eighteen years now).
A few weeks ago, even lifting the instrument into position like I did in the picture would have been much more difficult, so I am thankful for a small victory there! And after that…well, we will keep waiting to see if the nerves in my left hand will wake up or not (this is a wait-and-see from the doctors, since it can be hard to predict which faculties will return after strokes). And even if the feeling in my hand doesn’t come back…you can guess who will experimenting to see if it is possible to learn to play violin using muscle memory alone!