It took me a while to realize that Ernie was courting Irene. And I was part of his plan.
I met Ernie just after he moved into an apartment in a local retirement community. A couple of times a month, I play the sweet-sounding grand piano in the sunny common area there. When he spots me, he always has an idea for a song he’d like to hear. His musical interests are wide ranging. Often he wants “Tennessee Waltz,” in honor of his home state, but he’s just as fond of “La Marseillaise,” the national anthem of France.
One day Ernie hurried up to me, leaning heavily on his walker. I noticed that he had carefully combed his thin hair across the top of his head in parallel stripes. He asked if I could play “Goodnight, Irene” right away. I complied but didn’t understand his urgency. Two weeks later, he repeated his request. And again, two weeks after that. The light dawned. Ernie had his eye on another resident, lovely Irene. “Goodnight, Irene” was the only song he could think of with her name in the title when he had first rushed in ahead of her and made his request. He wanted me to be playing “her song” when Irene entered the room. (The lyrics to this lilting melody are surprisingly dark, telling of the singer’s ramblin’ and gamblin’ and troubled love life, but never mind. Ernie’s heart was in the right place.)
Soon he started asking me to play “Yellow Rose of Texas,” one of Irene’s favorite songs. Again, he timed his requests to match her arrival.
Within a few months, Ernie and Irene married. They look content together, in the way that older couples do when they recognize their luck in finding someone special to share their last years. Ernie still requests “Goodnight, Irene” for his bride.
Copyright © 2013 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.