Lunch with Marjorie: Perfect pitch—A blessing and a curse, part one

July 1, 1993

Carl Anderson started playing violin when he was 5.

“Isn’t that unusual?” I asked.

“Not if you’re a Suzuki student. My best friend, Michael, was playing violin, He started when he was 3. Mike Beert was my teacher. He plays cello for the Rockford Symphony Orchestra.”

“When did this evolve into a career ambition?”

“Actually, I almost gave it up, by the time I was in seventh or eighth grade. I thought nothing was happening. All I could do was play with my mom.”

“You knew you were musical.”

“I inherited my dad’s ear for music. I have pretty good pitch. I don’t have perfect pitch, thankfully.”

“Thankfully?”

“Well, having perfect pitch is both a blessing and a curse. You hear when someone is out of tune, or whatever. I have relative pitch. I’ve been musical since I was born. My parents…pushed me…to keep it going. It wasn’t until I got to high school that I started to enjoy playing the violin. I was part of the orchestra at Guilford High School. I was able to audition for District Orchestra. I played in those my sophomore, junior and senior years. I actually went to State Orchestra my junior and senior years.”

“How did knowing that you were good affect your ambitions?”

“That kind of solidified my desire to continue in music. I was planning on going to college, planning on becoming a high school music teacher.”

Our Applebee’s server arrived. Carl wanted crispy orange chicken—very good. I ordered the spinach and artichoke appetizer.

He continued. “I was branching out in my musical interests…enjoying Celtic music. I love the style. It’s very emotive. I’m an emotive person. I show my emotions quite readily—wear my heart on my sleeve.”

“Music was a way to express yourself?”

“Mostly as an extension of my feelings.”

I went to Hillsdale College in Michigan…went into it wholeheartedly.”

“What sold you on Hillsdale?”

“It was the community of students and professors. That really was what it was all about. Closely knit, wonderful people. I didn’t want to be a number. I wanted to be a person. I guess I’ve always been a big fish in a small pond—although Guilford High School was huge. I had just a great time being myself—at Hillsdale and at Guilford.”

Carl finished his freshman year the spring of 1998. Everything was perfect.

“And the summer of 1998?”

“That’s the fateful summer. I was picking up odd jobs doing whatever kind of work I could to earn a little extra money. On June 23 it was 5:30 in the morning. I was in my car between Rockford and Loves Park.”

Our server asked Carl if he wanted a box for his barely touched lunch. He nodded, concentrating on talking to me.

“At 5:30 a.m. there aren’t many cars on the road, are there?” I queried.

“But there are delivery trucks,” he said. “And that was what hit my car.”

Carl’s 1995 champagne Toyota Camry headed southbound on Applewood.

“And that’s all I remember. I was at a stoplight. The truck was heading west on Riverside, heading to Cub Foods—a refrigerated meat truck. I don’t remember this. I am going by what I’ve been told. According to my grandfather, who saw what was left of the car in the junkyard, it’s a miracle I’m alive. He T-boned the car—it was totaled. The coroner was called to the scene of the wreck. They didn’t think I was alive, and if I were alive, I would probably die en route to the hospital. And, if I were able to make it, I would die on the emergency room table. When they finally did get me out of what was left of my car, they did get some faint vital signs.”

“You weren’t having white light experiences?”

“I have no idea. I have no recollection whatsoever. The next thing I remember was somewhere two months after that…groggily coming to, as it were, in the nursing home.”

“That first two months, you were in a coma?”

“Correct. All I know is the Lord preserved me. I have snippets in my mind.”

“Tell me snippets.”

“Looking out the nursing home window. I remember therapy…physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. Thank God, insurance paid for the lion’s share. The lady, the caseworker for our insurance claims, said whatever he needs, he’ll get. That was just a miracle. I am so grateful to God for giving me that.”

He recalls his mother’s presence.

“My mom told me, ‘You were in a car accident, Carl. The Lord spared your life.’”

Marjorie Stradinger is a free-lance writer residing in Roscoe who has covered food and other topics for 25 years.

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