On Thursdays, I take violin lessons from a wonderful woman named Patsy. Her house sits on the curve of a cul-de-sac, in a sleepy patch of suburbia. And never mind you how well I play, if at all. What really matters is that Patsy and I are friends. Good friends. Great friends.
On days I arrive early, I park at the rounded curb, waiting for the 11-year old student before me . I wait for her mother to drive down the lane and around the corner. And each time, from my rearview mirror, I usually notice the girl craning in her seat to see me. She is maybe curious about the one ancient student who learns the same lessons she does, who bakes all the sweet treats to eat at Patsy’s famous violin parties?
Pulling into Patsy’s driveway today, I stopped a few feet short from where I usually park. A fury of neon was marking off a large space of her black concrete. A chalk mural. Coming closer I squinted to find CRIME SCENE DON’T CROSS scrawled in capital letters. Beneath this, I made out traces of three bodies. One outline had an entire outfit drawn in, while the others had fewer details – a line for a belt, bows for shoes. Patsy, who usually waits until I’m walking to the door to open it, came out to examine the work with me. She laughed. Two outlines are new granddaughters she has only recently acquired, through her son’s second marriage a few weeks ago. “Girly girls,” she said lovingly, with so much wonder.
Inside, we relayed our past week to one another. She is a widower, whose weeks are filled with news of her grandson, her new granddaughters, lunches with friends at the local Hackney’s, and bargain finds at nearby shops. She also has interesting things to say about her neighbors in the cul-de-sac, who she views from her window every day. I nod, sliding the rosin on my bow.
It’s possible this is not as interesting as I think it is. Even with the added dimension reality television shades into her life, Patsy’s days and nights may appear too quiet to be worth reporting. Apart from her high end proclivities for music, her sharp memory and endless good humor, the truth is, she is one of many people we could easily overlook in search of more extravagant entertainment.
But Patsy is my safe place. And whenever I walk up the ramp, past the miniature lawn ornaments and roses, I feel like this:
The truth is, a year before we met, Patsy was also a caregiver. But her experience is one even I can’t relate to. Not only did she have a husband with Parkinson’s – which he never grasped a footing from – but she also had a grown, disabled son to attend to as well. Two disabled men. Two. They both passed within the same year, after several years of her highly concentrated and lonely effort. Their passing left her with one divorced son, an empty house, and suddenly, curiously, a lot of time to herself.
Months after their passing, she began taking students again. Hours and weeks that used to not belong to her were suddenly large expanses of deserted time. She began to fill it. She reconnected with girlfriends from her old music sorority. She purchased a light-up, Thomas Kinkade piece she fancied, and hung it by her door. By the time I met her, I met the most comfortable human being I have ever known. Someone who loves chocolate and celebrating holidays. Someone who is generous with her understanding. And, for all my violin teacher’s quiet, in the short time that I’ve known her, I’ve watched her life continue to grow, change, and flourish. A subtle vibrancy that has healed my own ennui from two years ago. A significant friendship that has coaxed me to hope and believe in better things.
Fingers crossed violin will qualify as the other instrument I must “learn,” according to my 30 things list. But even if it isn’t, I have obviously gained much more. Friend, love your time, love your friends, love music, and always toast to good health. See you next week!
Oh, and P.S. For what it’s worth, this post began its composition on Thursday. But talking about such an important friend, I couldn’t help but write at my leisure, trying to appreciate her just so. How is it Friday, close to midnight already? Quel mystere.