As Long As Those Fingers Hold Out…

I started learning to play guitar soon after my birthday in September, 1962. I used money I’d been saving for my high school class ring to buy an eighteen dollar Silvertone. I didn’t even know how to tune it, and digital tuners were many years in the future.

With the folk fad in vogue at the time, I focused on learning finger picking. (Although I do strum some songs, I’ve never become comfortable or competent with a pick.) Learning the theory behind some of the basics didn’t take long, but making my fingers cooperate consistently seemed impossible.

As strange as it might sound, John F. Kennedy’s assassination and funeral changed all of that. I was off from school, and nothing but JFK-related programming was on TV, so I had LOTS of time to really polish those finger styles. Although I’ve added a lot to my techniques since then, I count that time as when I really caught on to learning to play.

I do most of my playing now in my church’s nursing home ministry, where accuracy is less important than having a loving attitude. Not that I don’t practice quite a bit for the solo I do each week, but somehow I just don’t feel I still have what I used to have. Occasionally I even cheat and simplify something I’ve been doing a particular way for a number of years.

But what if I reach the point of no longer being nimble enough to play at all?

My mother was a very good pianist, but rheumatoid arthritis silenced her playing several years before her death. I don’t have any symptoms of that disease, but still…I don’t feel like I’m playing as well as I did ten or fifteen years ago.

I didn’t intend for this post to be about me. Not really.

It’s about Carlos Montoya. If you’re not familiar with Mr. Montoya, people considered him the finest flamenco (that’s Spanish gypsy music) guitarist around. He lived from 1903 to 1993.

I went to see him in person while I was in high school—on Saturday, March 23, 1963. “Fabulous” doesn’t begin to describe his playing. Compared to him, I’ve never been a guitar player at all.

MontoyaOldProgram     MontoyaAlbumCover.pg

I saw him again years later—on July 30, 1986—when he was eighty-three. He wasn’t the same guitarist he’d been twenty-three years earlier, but nobody in that audience seemed to care. If anything, listeners were enthralled that he was still playing as well as he was.

MontoyaNewProgram   

Should I ever decline enough in my playing for others to notice, I hope they won’t say, “Oh, he used to be pretty good.” I hope they’ll say, “He never quits trying, does he?”

Do you do something you can’t do as well now as when you were younger?  Please share a comment.

I’ll be back again next Sunday or whenever I next have something to say. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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What Childhood Memories?

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When people start getting older, I thought they began forgetting what happened yesterday or last week while increasing in their ability to spend countless boring hours talking about what happened in their childhood and youth.

Not me. I remember yesterday and last week just fine. Of course, I have problems with names and faces, but that problem has been with me as far back as I can remember. No pun intended.

My problem is I don’t recall much from my childhood and youth. These are most of the things I DO remember:

  • Getting my first bike for Christmas and trying to ride downhill in our grassy backyard
  • Racing a neighborhood boy to the easy chair in my bedroom, breaking the window with it, and my parents making me pay for the repair
  • Going down to a younger friend’s house to watch “Roy Rogers “on TV every week
  • Going to a nearby park for the weekly nickel Coca Cola my parents permitted me to have
  • Watching my mother find where my father had hidden the grandmother clock (behind the studio couch) he’d bought her for Christmas
  • Receiving our first TV from the church my father pastored and the horrible reception we got
  • Attending a children’s choir practice and hating it
  • Finally learning to ride that bicycle
  • Crying when I heard we were moving away from the place we’d lived the first eight years of my life
  • Pigging out on homemade rolls at the home of a church member who babysat me overnight for some reason
  • Pretending to play the guitar that was sitting around at my friend Chuck’s house
  • Being severely frightened by an elementary school program which included a demo of the sparks from static electricity

Those events all took place during the first eight years of my life. I probably remember no more than an equal number of things from age eight to approximately age fifteen. That’s when I had acute viral encephalitis and almost died. But that’s another story.

In short, I almost get jealous of people who vividly remember a lot about their childhoods .

But who knows? Maybe I’ll be the reverse of a (stereo)typical older person and continue to be able to live in the present. I don’t know about your present, but mine is a great deal nicer than what little I remember about my distant past.

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment.

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out HERE. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

Best regards,
Roger

A Time for Downsizing

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[NOTE: Last Wednesday was an unsaved post. Today’s problem was Internet speed. Sorry this is late.]

When my first wife and I decided to divorce, I was faced with a decision. Many of them, actually. But the one I’m talking about now was where to live. And not just where, but how.

We planned to sell our less than ten-years-old 2100 square-foot house. I had no idea whether I would ever marry again, but our daughter was going to live with her mom and visit me as often as she could. So I wouldn’t need but so much space. I certainly didn’t need a house or a mortgage.

At the same time, I didn’t want to throw my money away each month on an apartment that might  not even provide the kind of peaceful atmosphere I longed for.

My ex- and I had once lived in a mobile home. Yes, there are “trailers” out there, but please don’t label all mobile homes that way. We’d lived in such a well-kept park that we got notices from the front office if we failed to cut the grass when it needed it. But at least the home had been ours, and it had provided every advantage we needed at the time.

And living in a house–even a new one–sometimes left me missing the kind of compact living I’d once been used to.

So a mobile home seemed to be a natural solution. Because my ex- and I were on good speaking terms, I let her join me on my home-shopping expeditions. In fact, I followed her advice about which of two homes to buy, and I’m glad I did.

My new home had close to 1200 square feet of space, and–considering how compactly mobile homes are designed–I probably had more usable space than I would’ve had in an apartment of comparable size.

My share from the sale of the house didn’t quite cover the complete cost of my new home, but I borrowed from an annuity to pay cash for the balance. Paying my annuity back was a pleasure. Less so my monthly land rent.

I was thrilled with my purchase. I designated one of the three bedrooms as my daughter’s and turned the third bedroom into a music room, where I could record and listen to music to my heart’s content.

I moved into the mobile home years before I was old enough to retire. My wife (yes, I did remarry) and I agreed that this would be all we needed. Neither of us is much interested in things. Especially useless things that just sit around and collect dust.

So this kind of lifestyle–with its limited space–has kept us well-motivated to be careful about buying only things we really need–and a few of the things we want as well.

But when one of us dies, at least the surviving spouse won’t face what my ex- and I did when my mother died a year after my father. Their attic was full of more stuff than we could figure out what to do with, and it took months for us to go through enough of the important papers to conclude that my mother must not have had life insurance.

So we highly recommend downsizing when the time comes.

Have you faced anything similar? Please leave a comment.

<>

I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”check it out here. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list here.

Best regards,
Roger

 

As Long As Those Fingers Hold Out…

MontoyaOldProgram     MontoyaAlbumCover.pg     MontoyaNewProgram     MontoyaArticle

I started learning to play guitar soon after my birthday in September, 1962. I used money I’d been saving for my class ring to buy an eighteen dollar Silvertone. I didn’t even know how to tune it. Digital tuners were many years in the future.

With the folk fad in vogue at the time, I focused on learning finger picking. (Although I do strum some songs, I’ve never become comfortable or competent with a pick.) Learning the theory behind some of the basics didn’t take long, but making my fingers cooperate consistently seemed impossible.

As strange as it might sound, John F. Kennedy’s assassination and funeral changed all of that. I was off from school, and nothing but JFK-related programming was on TV, so I had LOTS of time to really polish those finger styles. Although I’ve added a lot to my techniques since then, I count that as when I really caught on to learning to play.

I do most of my playing now in my church’s nursing home ministry, where accuracy is less important than having a loving attitude. Not that I don’t practice quite a bit for the solo I do each week, but somehow I just don’t feel I still have what I used to have. Occasionally I even cheat and simplify something I’ve been doing a particular way for many years.

But what if I reach the point of no longer being nimble enough to play at all?

My mother was a very good pianist, but rheumatoid arthritis silenced her playing several years before her death. I don’t have any symptoms of that disease, but still…I don’t feel like I’m playing as well as I did ten or fifteen years ago.

But this post isn’t about me. Not really.

It’s about Carlos Montoya. If you’re not familiar with Mr. Montoya, people considered him the finest flamenco (that’s Spanish gypsy music) guitarist around. He lived from 1903 to 1993.

I went to see him in person while I was in high school—on Saturday, March 23, 1963. “Fabulous” doesn’t begin to describe his playing. Compared to him, I’ve never been a guitar player at all.

I saw him again years later—on July 30, 1986—when he was eighty-three. He wasn’t the same guitarist he’d been twenty-three years earlier, but nobody in that audience seemed to care. If anything, listeners were enthralled that he was still playing as well as he was.

Should I ever decline enough in my playing for other people to notice, I hope they won’t say, “Oh, he used to be so good.” I hope they’ll say, “He never quits trying, does he?”

Please leave a comment if something in this post speaks to you in a way you’d like to respond to. I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to the top right of this page where it says, “Follow Blog by Email.”

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing” to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Because I’ve used up all of my songs, I repost an old post each Wednesday. If you’re interested, please check that blog out here.

Best regards,
Roger