When I arrived to play the piano, Walt was in his favorite listening spot on the sofa. A music enthusiast who started taking voice lessons at age 90, Walt looks forward to my twice-monthly visits to his retirement community. This soft-spoken, slightly built gentleman serves as my goodwill ambassador, making it his business to see that I feel welcomed and appreciated. As always, he had already set up my light and turned off the canned background music.
Soon Mabel showed up. She rolled her wheelchair right next to the grand piano, so that she could chat with me. She often tells me about the stroke she suffered, and how she exercises her brain by trying to remember the words to the old songs I play.
I started my program with a perennial favorite, a 1940s song recorded by Frank Sinatra and other vocal stars. When I finished the piece, Walt commented that Rogers and Hart wrote it for their Broadway musical Pal Joey. “‘I Could Write a Book’ is another song from the same show,” he said. “I like that one, too.”
Eager to join our conversation, Mabel remarked to Walt, “It seems that everyone I meet these days is writing a book.” Walt gently corrected her, “No, ‘I Could Write a Book’ is just the name of a song I like.” I busied myself lining up sheet music on the piano, carefully avoiding his eyes.
“What is your book about?” Mabel persisted. Walt kindly clarified, “‘I Could Write a Book’ is the title of a song.” Mabel gave him a long, hard stare. Then she asked, enunciating slowly and deliberately, “How—long—have—you—been—wri—ting—your—book?”
I risked a sideways glance toward Walt. He managed a tight-lipped smile, took hold of his walker, and mutely padded away. Still clueless, Mabel settled back, awaiting my next selection. There would never be a more fitting moment to reprise my opening song: “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered.”
Copyright © 2013 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.