It was well into their second set that I realized the two musicians on stage were blind. The super sleuth that I am, I had to be told of that fact. I listened intently, but when I looked at the stage, my eyes were drawn to the fingers dancing with precision on the keys and buttons of the accordion. There was nothing “blind” in that playing. Brent Buswell and his wife, Crista, performed Sunday at Helen, Georgia’s Oktoberfest. From Pennsylvania, Brent is an accomplished accordion player, performing a wide variety of music genres. Crista added keyboard, trumpet and vocals for the show.
I enjoyed the music so much, I looked up Brent Buswell's website. Among the various pieces of info, there is only one small reference to blindness. This really got me thinking. Just what did I expect would or should have been written? What struck me, was he doesn't define himself and his music in terms of what he can't do – but what he can. In a certain way, lack of sight is irrelevant. Before I knew Brent and Crista were blind, I only knew they were good musicians. Good musicians, who no doubt have to deal with countless jokes about accordion music.
While the Buswells were earning a living playing wonderful music, a short distance away, a young man was trying to barter his disability for some pity. The scruffy 20-something sat on the sidewalk, displaying his footless legs and a coffee can that hopefully would fill with donations. Lacking knowledge of the man's life and circumstances, I make no judgment in particular. I do make a judgment in general that there are countless talents to develop despite our limitations. Or, perhaps because of our limitations.
My friend Dave has cerebral palsy and he is quick to remind you that it is a relatively “mild” version of that affliction. Added to dealing with CP, Dave copes with the ever evolving effects of having his hip shattered in a vehicle accident as a teenager. Despite his challenges, he has competed in numerous triathlons and other athletic events. His personal catch phase of “handicapable” reflects his sense of humor in dealing with the pain that assaults his senses on a daily basis. Dave also doesn't define himself by what he can't do but what he can and hopes to do. He also lives by the adage of getting better, not bitter.
Trying to be politically correct at least for now, one term for handicapped is “persons with disabilities.” Contemplating this definition – I think it defines us all, especially if mental is combined with physical disabilities. I don't say this to trivialize people's handicaps but rather it's a realization that all of us have less than perfect health and getting less perfect day by day. It's the adjustments we make that makes the difference between resignation and rejuvenation.
If you need some polka rejuvenation by a world-class accordion player, Brent Buswell will be performing next month at Asheville's Oktoberfest. I'm sure he would love to be seen, and most importantly, heard, by you.