Goodbye, and Thanks

Posted by Tom Tucker on

Below is a delightful band director story written by Robert Storms.  Mr Storms is a composer and many of his works are available on PDF Band Music.  His background includes many years of teaching music in the western Washington area of the United States. This post and many other short stories by Robert Storms are available on Lulu Press.  The title of his book is "School Stories."

The school year had ended. I had completed two years of my first job as a music teacher, and I was packed and ready to leave Cle Elum. I would head for the city of Ferndale and the promise of a new teaching job as middle school band and choir director.

     I couldn’t leave. Someone had driven up behind me and blocked the driveway as I backed out. I wasn’t sure who the person in the car was and I didn’t recognize his car. I got out of my car to see what this was all about and was approaching the vehicle when the man’s door finally opened and a small, elderly gentleman got out. With a smile on his face, he said, “You can’t leave town yet!” I recognized the man as a member of the men’s choir I had started at the Cle Elum Community Church two years before.

     He had tears in his eyes. “You can’t leave town yet!” he said again, and then he hugged me. I wondered just what this man I barely knew was so emotional about, so after he let go of me, he began to tell me just why.

     “You saved my life!” he said. “I did?”

     The man’s name was Henry and he was a nearly invisible member of the Community Church Men’s Choir, as he was so short. The choir sang and he sang. That’s it. I tried to remember any conversation I had with him that might have been potentially lifesaving, but I drew a blank. His head went back and forth – from my chest, in a hug, to arm’s length – as he told me his tale. His tears flowed.

    “You let me join the choir. I’m not a good singer. You let me sing anyway.” I was still in the dark, when he piped up, “I was supposed to die two years ago. “His grip on me tightened when he said that. “The doctor said that if I didn’t use my lungs more I would not last until that Christmas. My tests were all showing falling numbers. I’m just a quiet person, I guess, and I don’t use my voice very much.? As he spoke, his grip relaxed, and he looked at the ground. “That’s when I asked the doctor what to do, her said join a speech class, get in a discussion group and join in, or join a choir and sing loud.”

     Okay, I got it. He had joined the choir to get his lungs working. Interesting.

     The fact that I was leaving town was not the big issue here, I realized. He simply wanted to credit me with saving his life, when it was his own actions that had saved him. As a young man, I had to try to relate to him somehow. My intention was to try to think of a comforting word, but none came.

     Henry looked at me … and kissed me! I asked him why the kiss.    “It’s from my wife.”

 


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