Wednesday, November 9, 2011

And Your Bird Can Sing

You tell me that you've got everything you want
And your bird can sing
But you don't get me, you don't get me

When I was a teenager I thought my future was pre-determined. I didn't have the athletic ability to become a professional athlete nor the interest in becoming a lawyer. I was going to be a musician, writing songs, playing guitar, and singing in a band. I took the typical first step toward my goal, buying the first guitar in a pawn shop and taking lessons. Once a week I would head down to La Habra Music for lessons and each night I would slide on the turntable and play over the loud music coming out of my cheap speakers. 

With the help of my teacher I was able to learn how to play chords, a couple simple riffs, and eventually my first song called "And Your Bird Can Sing" by some band named The Beatles. I must have played that song a hundred times, each time imagining the excitement of being on stage. Thankfully my parents were gracious enough to let me go at it over and over until I had it down. I'm sure it didn't sound anything like George Harrison, but I didn't care. I knew a song! 

Time went by and that guitar was slowly replaced by college books and a girl I would someday call my wife. As the years rolled by we moved place to place from crappy apartments, to starter homes, and eventually to a nice place we are proud of. Each time we moved that guitar came along even if it found itself stashed away in a garage or basement. Here and there I would search it out and begin to play again just to see if I remembered that old riff and maybe that old song. 

As our kids aged I noticed that we did have a musician in the house, but it wasn't me. It was Maddie. It started with clarinet in elementary school and then transitioned to violin. When she was in third grade she was playing with the fifth and sixth graders. By fifth grade she was first chair, tuning the orchestra, and leading in solos. Over time Maddie added a bit of piano and eventually decided to open her heart to singing.

The first time I really heard her sing a solo in public was at last year's school musical when she played Alice Applebee. I sat in the audience and heard a voice shooting out from a little girl with such joy and strength.  She did a great job and her confidence boomed.  After the play ran its course, she was hooked. She soon started singing lessons once a week and began to prepare for the next musical. 

A wonderful thing she did not consider was singing's importance to her health.  Just like the benefits she'd seen from those nights in the physical therapy pool, singing was helping her. You see, in addition to muscle weakness in arms and legs, adult onset Pompe carries the risk of respiratory complications caused by weakening of the diaphragm and other respiratory muscles. If allowed to progress without treatment by ERT, diet, and exercise, Pompe can lead to breathing issues including the use of bipaps at night and potentially respiratory failure.

People say a muscle at rest usually stays at rest, while a muscle in motion usually stays in motion.  I don't know if Maddie will ever face these challenges with Pompe, but if the chance is there, why not keep those muscles in motion?  After all, what's wrong with the sound of music throughout the house especially if it brings joy to a little girl's heart?

That guitar now hangs in my home office waiting for the opportunity to be used once again.  Maddie has been getting ready for her next audition by practicing lines and singing songs.  Maybe it's time to pick it up, get it back in tune, and play it beside my little bird, who clearly has more musical talent than I ever will.  As I listen to her I wonder if each time she opens those lungs and fills the house with her song, she is looking Pompe disease right in the eye and singing...

But you don't get me, you don't get me!


Credit to: The Beatles, "And Your Bird Can Sing"


  1. Soooo....are you becoming a rock star or not? But seriously folks, we all love to hear that bird of yours sing. Can't wait to see the next show.

  2. I miss that little chick-a-dee and her big sister too! give them both my best!

  3. What a wonderful story Matt and Donna. Always thinking of you from down under. Love Lee and Coral

  4. Cant wait to be out in front again this year and here that voice!