Love and Music

Love and Music

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Stress


Love and Music

I stood on the front porch of the old Varner-Hogg Plantation house in West Columbia, Texas, gazing into the eyes of my soon-to-be husband Anthony. As the minister asked me to promise “for better or worse,” thunder rumbled loudly from the overcast sky. Was it a warning or a promise?

I’d already been through “the worse.” Surely nothing but “the better” was in our future. In the past sixteen months I had gone through a divorce, lost my job, moved, and watched helplessly as my mother rapidly succumbed to breast cancer that had spread too far before it was discovered.

I’d spent as much time as I could with her, and after her struggle was over, with my dad as he tried to adjust to life without his beautiful wife. He had decided to sell their home and live life on the road in a travel trailer, traversing the country to spend time with relatives. He had been in West Columbia for a week or so before the wedding, getting to know my new husband and doing dad stuff like fixing things around the house, making sure the car was in top shape, etc. A few days after the wedding he would head to my brother’s house for a while, then off on his cross-country trek.

Anthony and I spent our wedding night in nearby Galveston, and came home the next afternoon.

Monday morning I was back at work when Dad called me.

“I’m so cold,” he said. “I have the heater all the way up and I can’t get warm.”

It was in the seventies outside.

I left work and finally convinced him to let me take him to the emergency room. Anthony had arrived to wait with me by the time the doctor came out with the diagnosis. Dad had a huge tumor in his colon. The tumor had sapped his blood supply, which made him anemic and accounted for the inability to get warm. He needed surgery right away.

They removed the tumor, and told us that after a period of recovery he was going to have to go through chemo.

Okay, our married life was not starting out on the “better” side, but I was so glad I had Anthony to love and lean on as we nursed Dad through this.

Dad was in his first month of chemotherapy when I scheduled a visit to my ob-gyn. I’d had a mammogram just a few months after mom died — my first one. It showed no abnormalities. But lately I had noticed that my left nipple was beginning to sink in, and I’d heard that was not a good sign.

The doctor sent me right away to the hospital for a mammogram and a sonogram.

One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was stand in the hospital parking lot that afternoon and call my husband of five months to tell him I had been diagnosed with breast cancer and needed a mastectomy.

So here we were, Dad going through his chemotherapy and me recovering from surgery and then beginning chemotherapy, too. We called it our father-daughter bonding experience.

Anthony was working, taking care of two chemo patients and my kids, too. He never once complained, but no matter how hard he tried to hide it I knew he would break down now and then.

The stress of trying to handle what Dad was going through and what I was going through was bad enough, but to see what it was doing to my husband sometimes drove me over the edge. I knew he loved me, but even love wouldn’t have been enough for most men. He deserved so much more.

It was the radiation nurse who gave me a solution, not for changing things, but for dealing with it all.

“Spend time every day in music therapy,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be relaxation music. Just go in a quiet place, all alone, and listen to anything you want.”

I almost always had music or something going on around me, so I didn’t see how that was going to be helpful, but one afternoon when I didn’t know how I was going to keep going I went in the bedroom, crawled under the covers, put on my earphones and turned on the CD player.

I played Billy Joel and Paul Simon over and over, until I eventually felt strong enough to get up and face life again with a smile. The small changes my daily music time made in my attitude had a ripple effect on my husband, and I could sense the tension lessening for him, too.

Since that time, when the kids, or grandkids, or things at work, or even the recurrence of the cancer some ten years later, have tried to knock me down, I know that a little time alone with music will help refresh me. I can always tell if it’s been too long since I’ve spent time alone in a cocoon of my favorite tunes.

There have been plenty of times in the twenty years since our wedding day when it seems as though the “for worse” side of our vows has more than overshadowed the “for better” side, but each time we’ve come through it even stronger.

A whole lot of love, and a little music, is all it takes.

~ Teena Maenza ~

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