My piano playing made him cry.
I paused in my midday program, having just worked my way through a book of sentimental songs from the 1910s that closed with “Let the Rest of the World Go By” by Ernest Ball. He composed the melodies for many heartfelt favorites of that decade, including “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”
I considered what to play next.
Bill finished eating lunch at a nearby table and steered his walker to the piano. He’s a stooped, kindly man with wisps of smoothly combed brown hair. I’ve noticed that he always wears his white cable-knit cardigan in the dining room, regardless of the season. “My mother used to play that last song,” he said. Then his face crumpled and he erupted in a sob. “I loved her so much, I miss her—.”
Bill seemed surprised by his outburst. He fumbled inside his droopy trouser pocket for a handkerchief, which he wiped repeatedly across the front of his glasses in a vain attempt to dry his eyes. Perhaps for a few emotionally charged moments, he was his mother’s little boy again. A little boy who didn’t wear glasses. Bill grew confused, his tears out of reach behind thick, square lenses. Finally, he surrendered to his feelings and wept without reserve. I went to his side and stood quietly while memories washed over him. He cried with sadness that his mother was gone. Yet there was comfort in remembering that she had once lived, made music, and was his.
After several minutes, Bill’s tears ended and I returned to the piano. Bill headed back to his room, slowly pushing his walker down the long hall. I could hear him whistling along as I played my next number: “That Wonderful Mother of Mine.”
Copyright © 2013 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.