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

By Marjorie Stradinger


Carl Anderson’s hopes for a music career and playing his violin were altered June 23, 1998, when his Camry was struck by a delivery truck. He describes his recovery.

“Broken bones?” I asked.

“Many, many, many. If you want me to go from top to bottom…” He pointed to his head: “Traumatic brain injury. My skull was never fractured, so that was a mercy of God right there. What they said—my brain twisted on the stem and rubbed up against the right side of my skull. That’s what put me in a coma. Major gash on the left side of my skull. The scalp was open, so I had stitches there. Going down, my left collarbone was broken.”

I couldn’t resist. “You had your seat belt on, right?”

“That’s what saved my life. I wore my seat belt and the air bag deployed. Both my arms and both my legs were fine, but everything else in my torso was messed up, except for my back. All my ribs were broken, resulting in both lungs being punctured.

“My pelvis—that’s a big bone—got broken in five places. While I was in a coma, they weren’t able to move my legs…until my pelvis healed. Calcium deposits started forming under my kneecaps…completely shifted my kneecaps out of their normal spot. When I emerged from the coma, I didn’t have knees, I had lumps and wasn’t able to walk.”

After more than five months of rehab:

“I came home the day before Thanksgiving. I was so thankful to God that I was alive, so thankful to be coming home, though my emotions were a little dampened. Things just didn’t seem as…. My emotions were pretty numbed. I did start trying to play the violin. I wanted to play for Carol Sing, like I had done in the past. I tried…I really did. It was frustrating. My left hand doesn’t work. I did play, but it wasn’t at the level I wanted.”

Carl put his violin down after that.

“It’s neurological damage…something is messed up between my brain and my hand.”

“What do you think about that?”

“All right, God, what do you want me to do now? I thought I was going to be a music teacher, and I can’t do anything musical, really. I think God was saying, ‘trust me, I’ll lead you.’ It ended up being experience…gradually learning to trust God. There is still hope that I could play the violin. That has never left.”

He took classes at Rock Valley College that fall, then returned to Hillsdale.

“I was thrilled to be back, but things weren’t as I remembered. I wasn’t quite so…I’m a lot sadder, more sedate than I was used to being.” He struggled to explain the loss of emotion.

He did graduate from Hillsdale, earning a degree in music pedagogy.

“Music pedagogy was kind of a major they made for me. I have head knowledge, but I can’t do the physical expression.”

He was distracted by a young woman he knew in the restaurant. They bantered about winter break and school being superior to employment—reality.

“Reality sucks,” Carl said. “Stay in school as long as you can.”

He was sheepish, realizing this was more candid than what he was saying to me.

By 2004, Carl was weighing his options.

“It’s (music) still a hope, a very distant hope,” he said. “If I were able to play again, I think I would (get back) the emotion again.”

“The music itself would bring it back?”

“I think so.”

He’s now studying counseling at a seminary in St. Louis.

“What’s happening inside, Carl?” I asked.

“I’m really not sure. I feel to a certain extent a little lost direction.

“Is there purpose in all of this?”

“I know there is…I don’t know. I know there is one. I’ve never had a normal life—even pre-DAO (Divinely Appointed Occurrence), that’s what I call my wreck. God does not cause sin, but he has a purpose through it…and that is a mystery that, this side of heaven, we will never be able to fathom.”

“Are you OK with that?”

“I am more than OK with that.” He paused. “I should be honest. There are other things coming into play.”

He described social struggles. He’s 25. It’s a difficult young adulthood.

“What you want back is your passion for life?”


“I think we’re still talking about perfect pitch,” I said. “Emotional perfect pitch—knowing what you’re missing. It hurts.”

He reflected. I had hit a chord.

His friends were IM’ing again.

“Do you mind if I check my phone?”

Marjorie Stradinger is a free-lance writer residing in Roscoe.

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