“I don’t like people like you who can remember things.” Wow, that’s a bit harsh. But that’s Harold.
I wrote about meeting him in a June 2013 blog post:
As I reached the last chords of the 1949 tune “My Foolish Heart,” Harold—a gruff man sitting in a wheelchair a few feet away from the piano—interrupted me. “Come here a minute,” he demanded. I obeyed, and braced myself for a complaint. Harold said, “You know that last song you played? My wife and I had that at our wedding. She died a few years ago, so it was very special to hear it again. Thank you.” You just never know.
I hadn’t seen Harold since. Then one Wednesday afternoon in January when I arrived to play, there he sat, visiting with Maria, a fellow New Yorker who had broken through his hard shell with a little no-nonsense attitude of her own. While I set up my keyboard, Maria chatted with me, as she often does. She loves music, especially Frank Sinatra, and keeps an extensive collection of CDs in her room.
To bring Harold into the conversation, I reminded him that he once told me of the special significance the song “My Foolish Heart” held for him. That’s when he delivered that unexpected line: I don’t like people like you who can remember things.
Maria laughed off his curmudgeonly response, and encouraged him to stay and listen to my piano program. But live music didn’t seem to interest Harold. He told us that his son had loaded more than a thousand old songs onto an iPod for him, so he had all the music he needed. With professional recordings at his fingertips, he apparently no longer saw any point in listening to an amateur musician like me.
Harold reeled off the names of a few of his big band–era favorites. He asked if I’d ever heard of Fred Waring. I had. In fact, I happened to know that Waring’s success with his band, the Pennsylvanians, allowed him to provide the financial backing for the development of the electric blender that bears his name. So I tossed out that bit of trivia. Harold said he already knew about the blender connection, but he was sure surprised that I did, too. I had redeemed myself.
I offered to make “My Foolish Heart” my first selection that day. Harold didn’t let on that he cared one way or the other, so I just went ahead and played it, preserving his anonymity by simply announcing that I’d had a request for the song. He didn’t say anything afterwards, but I noticed he stayed for the rest of the hour, listening to my music with his fellow residents, instead of sitting alone in his room with his iPod.
I considered it a little victory.
Copyright © 2015 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
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