In the Jewish Home, where my mother passed her last eighteen months, I met one of most magical people ever. Ben was a marvel. He was a resident who, by the time my mother moved in, had been there a few years.
On set days and times, Ben played the pianos on every floor for other residents. It wasn’t official, but he had a job—making music for those who were not mobile and couldn’t leave their floor. Sometimes he played the grand piano at the common area on the first floor, right next to his room. He’d shuffle over carrying his sheet music, sit down at the keyboard, and make marvelous music just for himself, with the whole house watching.
He shared my mother’s birthday month, and at the luncheon for all the residents who had a birthday then, he sat next to my mother. She glowed. I did, too. Ben was not only handsome; he was radiant. Ben was beautiful.
Wanting to make conversation, but already suffering from dementia, my mother made a valiant effort to connect with him and make a friend. It must be a Jewish trait, for he answered every question with first repeating it. The conversation went something like this--
My mother: “Are you very old today?”
Ben: “Am I very old? Just old enough.”
My mother: “What is that?”
Ben: “What is that? Ninety-two.”
My mother: “That is too old.”
Ben: “Too old? Yes, it is.”
My mother: “How long will you live?”
Ben: “How long? They give me a day, I take it.”
This last line stayed with me. My mother lived for another year and four months, and passed away eight years ago. Ben still lives. He is one hundred-years-old.
I try to begin each day by saying what he said. I’ll take it.