June 16, 2012

I will lay me down

“Let’s stop at the nursing home on our way home,” I said to With-a-Why. “You’re all warmed up so you can sing for your grandmother.”

We had just left a school board meeting that included a performance by the high school chamber choir. They were celebrating the gold rating they’d gotten in a music festival. I knew my mother-in-law would enjoy seeing With-a-Why dressed in his concert clothes, a black dress pants and a black dress shirt that makes him look like a young man rather than a scruffy teenager.

“You can sing the solo you did for the competition,” I said.

Les Berceaux?” With-a-Why said. “THAT is not going to cheer her up. It’s about sailing off and leaving behind the families you love. She doesn’t understand French so she won’t get the lyrics, but she’s going to know it’s sad.”

“She’d just like to hear you sing,” I insisted, and my husband turned the car down the road towards the nursing home.

Minutes later, we crowded into my mother-in-law’s room. The aides had already dressed her in a blue nightgown, but she was awake enough to smile at her grandson. Her roommate, Oboe Player, was watching television, but when I asked if we could turn off the sound while With-a-Why sang, she said, “Of course.” Oboe Player played for the local symphony when she was younger and taught music lessons for years. She and I have had many conversations about my musical children.

With-a-Why stood awkwardly, his black dress clothes a silhouette against the beige curtains that drape down between the beds.

“It’s going to be loud,” With-a-Why warned. He glanced out to the hall.

“That’s okay,” I said. I thought of the noises of the nursing home: alarm bells on machines constantly going off, the blare of televisions turned up loud by almost-deaf residents, the way that certain residents yell for help as if being attacked by bears. I didn’t think anyone was going to mind the sound of a young man singing.

And so he sang. He sang Les Berceaux, even though it’s beautifully sad. He sang some of the old standards that my father has taught him. Then my husband joined in for the last song, Bridge Over Troubled Water. When they were done, Oboe Player clapped her hands. My mother-in-law is too weak to clap her hands, but she smiled again and then drifted off to sleep.


Lorianne said...

Oh, Jo(e). I'm all teary-eyed here.

Anonymous said...



Coasting Anon said...

See...now you've made me cry. Beautiful.

Cindy said...

I'm sniffling now.

undine said...


Zhoen said...

That is a gift to be remembered for lifetimes.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

So sweet and sad.

Your stories are making me CRY.

I am enjoying the old ones, too.