By Mary Groenewoud Hale

“Never let the brain idle.  ‘An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.’  And the devil’s name is Alzheimer’s.”                                           -George Carlin


“How will I keep busy during the coronavirus pandemic?” I thought to myself.  Yes, I will read books, do crossword puzzles in my People Magazine, scrapbook, try new recipes, zoom with friends and my book club, but what else????  I talked to the doctor during my annual check-up; he said you must learn NEW things to keep your brain active and malleable.  Learning new music fits into that category.

We had visited my younger brother the previous summer.  At his church, I was inspired by the piano player there.  She had command of that keyboard; the whole keyboard!  How many years had it taken her to get there?  My piano playing fingers still moved easily.  Could I still learn at 75? 

I searched the internet for tips on keeping your brain healthy.  A few of them hit home with me.

  1. Eat a healthy diet with more chicken and fish.
  2. Exercise regularly – 20-30 minutes daily.
  3. Drink alcohol only moderately. (I like my nightly one glass of wine!)
  4. Pursue intellectual activities.

So, I got out all of my old piano music; some old and some I had never played before.  I vowed to practice one hour a day for as long as the pandemic lasted.  No, I would never be able to play for an audience, but that was not the goal.  The goal was to keep my brain active, the synapses firing, and to enjoy myself!

Now nine months into the pandemic, I am happy to say I am meeting my goal.  Somedays, I feel like I am back at square one. But when I hear myself playing Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” Mozart’s Sonata in C Major, or Chopin waltzes, I feel a sense of accomplishment. 

I am determined to keep on playing. Who knows?  Maybe I will even hire a piano teacher in the future!






Mary Groenewoud Hale is a retired Reading Specialist, who worked with children having difficulties learning to read.  She was one of two lead teachers in the Northside Independent School District’s Reading Recovery Program for 15 of her 30 years. It was a rewarding and innovative experience enabling first graders to read successfully.

She graduated from the University of South Florida where she met Dwight, her husband of 53 years.  She followed him for 21 of those years while he was in the Air Force.  They moved nine times and finally settled in San Antonio.  Mary enjoys her neighborhood and church book clubs, playing bridge, and working with children at church in the Godly Play program.  She and her husband enjoy an active travel schedule.

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