I walked through the front door bravely and de-germed my hands with a quick shot from the Purell dispenser. My ears followed the quiet strains coming from the library, and there they were – thirteen toe-tapping seniors with stringed instruments, entertaining themselves as much as the residents with their weekly “jam session.”
He didn’t see me at first, but when he looked up from his dulcimer, his face lit up and his eyes grinned.
I grabbed an overstuffed chair next to a small woman in tennis shoes with silver hair, modernly styled. With a strong voice that had not a trace of a quaver, she told me it was her 92nd birthday. I laughed and looked around for a wink from her neighbors, as she didn’t look much older than my 77-year-old mother, but I got confirmation nods instead.
I asked this darling woman what advice she had for living a good life, and she looked at me, surprised at the question. “You have to have faith,” she said. “Faith in yourself that you can do things.” She informed me that last July she had fallen and broken her femur in two places. The doctors had to put a steel rod in her leg.
“I told myself I was going to walk again,” she declared, “and I did. You just have to have faith in yourself.”
No walker, no wheelchair. Just tennis shoes.
The musicians were set up in a large circle. Three had guitars, and the rest had dulcimers, five of which had been hand-made by my father. To my right stood an elegant woman with a gorgeous red jacket and jeweled-pocket black jeans. She had a fancy stand for her instrument and an iPad secured in front of her with her music.
Dad sat quietly and seemed content not to be the center of attention, while an entertaining guitarist crooned a song about a possum from a large upholstered stool in the center of the room. I hummed along to the melodies I knew and watched the hand-clapping onlookers grow as the walkers and wheelchairs made their way down to see what all the fuss was.
Possum Man asked me if music ran in the family and before I could answer, my father jumped in and proudly announced that I was first chair flute player in school. I didn’t even know he knew that about me, and I felt a warm sensation in my belly. They tried to get me to pick up a dulcimer, but I declined as I really have no talent at all for stringed instruments. But at Dad’s urging, I finally grabbed the wooden spoons from his case and clumsily kept time and hummed along in absolute delight to old hymns and banjo-pickin’ tunes like “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain.”
It was positively exhilarating.