AN UNCOMMON BOND
“What shape is this, Clarence?”
“Very good! What’s this one?”
“Square… Triangle…” He frowns at the rectangle, then looks sadly up at me and shakes his head. “Ah…I not know this one. It’s too difficult!”
“That’s okay…. Clarence, what color is the letter A?”
“Ah…I not know the answer to that one either.”
“No, see, there is no right answer to this question. Like for me the letter A is always yellow…. What color is it for you?”
“Don’t know that one neither. Much too difficult for me!” Pushing aside the picture book I’ve brought for us to share, he lifts his left wrist to his eyes and squints at the watch face strapped around it. At once his frown-lines flip into a dozen glowing smiles. “Two-thirty now! How…how long you stay here at nursing home today?”
Fifty-five minutes, thirty hymns, and six new fellow singers later, he pages through his songbook and taps a gnarled finger against the title “I’ll Fly Away.” Once again a dozen grins suffuse his moon-shaped face. “Ah…This be our last song!”
I believe him. I don’t have to glance even once upon the clock hanging above the dining room’s ice machine. As my last guitar chords fade to silence, I do check that clock. It reads three-thirty. On the dot. And I know it wouldn’t matter if I told Clarence I needed to go home at three-twenty…or three forty-five or four-fifteen. The closing hymn he chooses will always end precisely at whatever time I give him.
Music is what binds us all together.
“Katie, do you ever think people are trying to kill you?”
Melinda eyes me anxiously across her shadowed room. Its single spot of color is splashed across her canvas, which explodes with purple daisies, silver lilies, roses brilliant blue against a backdrop of pink cotton-candy sky. I pull myself from Paradise to face the hell only she can see blazing before her. I can’t see the dead Doberman sprawled across her floor or the Nazi leering at us from the hall. All I see are neatly-afghaned beds and bedside tables. Puzzled by her fear, I shake my head.
“Well, I sure do!”
It’s my turn now. “Melinda, do you see letters as having different colors? Like A might be the color yellow?”
“Nope. I never do that. Would you close my door, please?”
I do so, shutting out at least some of her horrors. Melinda’s tense face relaxes slightly. She flips through the hymnal on her lap, then fixes me with a hopeful smile. “Hey, can we sing ‘I’d Rather Have Jesus’ again? I really love that song!”
“Okay. I really love that one, too!”
Melinda breaks into a broader smile, her fears washed from her face by the joy now flooding through her. My huge grin mirrors hers, and within my soaring spirit I see Clarence only yesterday beaming just as brightly as he burst out with those very words. I can’t count the many times we’ve sung that hymn together, nor tell which one among our three smiles is the biggest.
Music is what binds us all together.
Music poured in praise to our Creator. The One who chose the gift of song to link us from our different worlds.
We each have our own gifts. An artist whose strange visions lend new colors to her landscapes. A writer for whom colors bleed onto her printed words. A child-man whose genius lies in ordering the months and days and hours…and in warming the deepest place of everyone he greets.
In many ways we are each unique. I cannot know the struggles to discern an oval from a circle, imposed upon Clarence by his extra chromosome. Nor can I enter Melinda’s nightmare realm, into which she is thrust by the sour chemical straying loose within her brain. And they cannot enter my own weirdly-wired world with its pumpkin-colored M’s and purple sixes…nor grasp my need to scoop up litter from the streets or to calm myself by flapping my hands.
But we all love to sing. We all love the soothing flow of chords and cadences, of rhythm and routine and repetition. We launch into our favorite hymns again again again. For we all love to honor the One who made us special and who loves us exactly as we are. The One who alone knows every corner of our hidden selves.
He’s the One who finally binds us all together.
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