Mar 27, 2022

Unfortunately, It soon became clear the trajectory of my voice training with Mrs. Unruh was headed in the wrong direction. She was aging, distracted, and could no longer stay focused on our lessons. She would stop repeatedly to air a litany of complaints about her life, including the fact that she was being pressured to sell her house because the area was being transformed into a shopping center. Also, she had to take care of her mother, who lived with her, which she resented, especially since her sister, as she often reiterated, had always been the favorite. So the momentum that used to sweep me into that rarified state of being deeply energized and relaxed at the same time rarely happened anymore.

Then she broke her hip, as I mentioned in my letter to Ella, and couldn’t teach for several months. When she recovered we resumed my lessons, but I remember her getting irritated with me one day, something she’d never done before, because as hard as I was trying, I just wasn’t able to find my old groove. Of course, during my senior year of college, I’d been taking four lessons a week, but now I could only afford one. I suppose if I’d been more mature and less intimidated by her, maybe I could have found ways to steer her back to the task at hand when she went off on her verbal tangents. But maybe not.

In any case, one day when I arrived at her house, no one answered the doorbell. I rang and rang, then went around the side of the house, intending to knock at the back door—and found a gardener raking leaves, who told me Mrs. Unruh had had a stroke and was in the hospital. She survived but never taught again.