Sunday Morning Opera: Oh, That Wonderful Smile!


Without appearing prejudicial, I think, without a doubt, Dmitri Hvorostovsky has the most wonderful smile I’ve ever seen. Like most honest people who aren’t psychopaths, his smile tells you much about how he is doing and feeling. Several weeks ago, during his concert in his hometown of, Krasnoyarsk, that smile was staged, barely there, full of pain.  Just watching what I could left me in tears.  It was obvious the man was miserable.

Quite frankly, I don’t know how he did it, having fallen, a few days earlier, seriously damaging his right arm.  Apparently, he dislocated his right shoulder.  I’ve never really known anyone who dislocated a shoulder do a major function, less than a week after the accident.  Trust me, I know… In October, 2005 I fell and basically ruined my right elbow.  I was incapable of functioning for at least two weeks.  (Of course, at the time, I was living alone, with no one to really help me.  I was in such pain, emotionally and physically that I was almost suicidal.  I couldn’t even make it down the 24 steps of my condo from the living room to the bedroom, sleeping on the sofa for nearly three weeks.)

Here this man is, dealing with all the medical issues, a horrible case of pneumonia which will take a good year to regain his strength and he does a concert?  He was pale, drawn, and looked absolutely miserable.  During that period, he did do an excellent interview, well worth reading.  His appearance, yesterday, at the Festival in Grafenegg, Germany surprised me.  He looks good!

That wonderful smile had returned.  I’ve pilfered a few photos, none of them very good, but it shows the smile.  I cannot get over the courage, adaptability, and sheer stubbornness of the man.  He puts us all to shame.  Here I am, sitting here, making everyone I know miserable because I’m enduring the first real ‘tragic’ affliction of writer’s block ever, and look at this man!

Look at that smile!

The man is amazing. We pray for he and his family, constantly. I don’t know how his wife, Florence, does it. If I were here I’d probably be so frustrated with him that I’d take a cattle prod to him and tell him to sit down, shut up, behave, and rest. What I do know, about recovering from the kind of pneumonia he experienced, is you don’t get over it, quickly. Physically, I have never been the same, and that 32 years ago. It left me with a tendency toward chronic fatigue, which hits at the worst times. It is exhausting. As an obsessive fan of his, (it’s a baritone thing and I am infamous) I want to see him take care of himself. I can imagine, for a person who has been so active, these past two years have been horrific on so many levels.

What I do know, having spent the past seven years dealing with Alzheimer’s and the disasters which go with it, we endure. We are never the same, but we endure. The traumas, heart-ache, and tribulations transform us into people we  should be. None of us are ever the same. We look back and realize there are two versions of who we are, the before and after. The before version is so shallow compared to the after version. Life’s problems make us into what we should be as human beings. I have spent years complaining, but I am a better person – an entirely different person.

We have a tendency to think of the person going through the medical trauma, and not think about those around him. I’ve watched several friends dealing with spouses and medical trauma. It takes a miserable toll on them.  Dealing with medical issues is rough on the primary care-giver.  It is exhausting, emotionally and physically.  You set aside your life, to help that person.  You become secondary.  In becoming secondary, you have a tendency to lose yourself.  You learn how to live life under siege.  It becomes the new normal.  Every phone call is answered with dread. You can’t relax – oh you could – but your mind won’t allow it. I watched as my father’s Alzheimer’s  gradually destroyed the person my mother once was, living in a state of constant siege.

And – Florence – we have your back – praying for you!