When I started taking care of my mother, my life as I had known it, particularly the drumming, ceased to exist. But my love of percussion did not die, and began to resurface in an unexpected form: I signed up for an Orisha Song class series with Carolyn Brandy in Berkely on Sundays. One Sunday I could not get a caregiver to cover for me while I attended the class, and I took my mother with me. It was a very windy, stormy wet day, and getting my mom out of the car and into the building took a lot of energy and an umbrella.
My mother, supreme in her power of denying and disguising her dementia, allowed me to bring her in, and sit her down. She picked up the lyrics sheet of the song we were working on and studied it intently, even though it was upside down and there was no way she could make head nor tail of it. Her participation and poise was charming, and when the class was over, several women helped me get her back to my car in the pouring rain, assisting me, holding the umbrella over my mom’s head. They treated her like a queen.
Then I found out there was a trip being organized and sponsored by Rhythmix to Sado Island, Japan to study Japanese culture and taiko drumming that I wanted to go on. By then, I had good caregivers who could take care of my mother and enough money, but I needed a reference from someone in the drumming community. Carolyn Brandy, affiliated to Rhythmix, gave me that reference, all because she saw that I was taking care of my mother.
The trip to Japan was a stretch because I hadn’t drummed for 3 years, and WASN’T a taiko player. All the other people on the trip were taiko players from all over the United States, and some of them took a real dislike to me. But when it came down it, I was drummer enough to learn how to handle the bacchi (taiko drumming sticks) and pick up the techniques and rhythms. I came home firmly reconnected to drumming, come hell or high water.
The next year(2006) Carolyn Brandy put on the first Born to Drum Camp for women, and I attended. It was only three days long, all women, great instructors, bunk camping and too much to absorb. But it was heaven. I dragged my long suffering woman drumming friend there and she caught the bug, tiring as it was.
The camp revived me, and I needed it because in 2006 my mother fell and her health began to decline; the slide towards death and the end of the life I’d had caring for her began to approach.
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