There’s Life After Death

Even though my wife Shirley had been in failing health, I was surprised when she broke her hip and died of pneumonia seven days after a hip replacement. It was probably the most devastating and traumatic experience of my life. I had been taking care of her the previous year, but luckily Wheels On Wheels delivered our meals, as I didn’t know how to cook. She wasn’t functioning well and had trouble remembering the recipes, even her favorite dishes, but was able to show me how to use the microwave oven, and the washer and dryer. I was grateful for that. After Shirley passed away, our son David cooked a couple of chicken dinners while I observed, so at least I wouldn’t be totally destitute with my newfound knowledge. I was a complete stranger to the kitchen. I do much better now, I know where to look for the sugar.

About a week after Shirley passed away, I went to the Senior Center in Palmdale to eat, where I found the seniors and employees to be very pleasant people. I would spend a couple of hours there, and when I went home, the rest of the day was long and lonely. To fill in the gap I picked up my trombone after not having played for 50 years. When I was playing professionally, I had a serious case of Bells palsy that caused a partial paralysis of the muscles around my lips. Luckily, I had a teacher’s degree and became a school band director. Holding the trombone in my hands after all those years was like being back with an old friend, but it turned on me and wouldn’t cooperate. For three months I spent hours trying to play but to no avail. I sadly put the trombone away. At the same time I was trying to sell my books on the Internet with the help of my publisher but with little success. I craved to do something creative to fill in the void, and for some strange reason I chose the chromatic harmonica to be my new partner. As I soon found out this type of harmonica with a lever on the side turned out to be incredibly difficult to learn. It took me about six months of hard practice to find out if I could really play the instrument. When my playing began to flow more naturally, I concluded I could. I then set goals for the next six months, and that included upgrading my harp, as the harmonica is called. I played ballads well, but I wanted to play jazz. To acquire the technique needed to play good jazz, I had to be patient, even at my age. I’ll continue to set goals and hope I’ ll eventually play jazz again.

I found that I still had too much time on my hands to think about Shirley, so I began going to different schools to read my books and talk to kids. Being a kid myself I loved doing that.

To learn how to sell my 38 children eBooks and my novel “Diary of a Young Musician, Final Days of the Big Band Era,” on the Internet, I began studying Socialnomics. Socialnomics is social networking that increases my Internet footprint and reach, in order to drive more traffic to my websites (, and Jim Greenleaf, owner of ilivetodayav where I took my lessons, is located in Blvd Today Café, a part of King’s Photo Supply in Lancaster, CA. My studies have been a success. Part of the course is what I’m doing right now, writing blogs.

Mario Grossi, a former band student from years back and close friend, owns Grossi’s Musical Instrument Repair Shop in Lancaster, CA ((661) 618-7718). He asked if I wanted to be his partner in selling and renting new and used band and orchestra instruments to children beginning in school music programs. I agreed without hesitation, as it was right up my alley. I love it and it’s working out well. Besides, it gives me a chance to hang out with Mario and John French, true artists at repairing instruments, and both hilarious.

The most relaxing time the past 20 months has been my weekly visits to Shirley at Desert Lawn Cemetery. I carry a folding beach chair in my car and talk to her for about a half hour, where I relate the events of the week. There are times I sense she’s with me, and advises me about problems or decisions that confront me. More than once I’ve changed my mind right on the spot. The location is so relaxing I hate to leave. The cemetery workers recognize my car and wave at me as they pass by or talk to me.

I begin my day by praying for a while, and then walk almost three miles after breakfast. Shirley had us begin this routine the day after we returned from our honeymoon and continued for 50 years. I highly recommend both.

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