Wednesday, 9 February 2011
How Do You Keep The Music Playing
I last saw her just after Christmas. She was frail and weak, but she still looked lovely, and when I cuddled her to say goodbye, I had a feeling that maybe that would be my last cuddle and my last goodbye. I spent a lovely couple of hours there that afternoon. Her mum was there, her best friend, her best friend's mum, the gorgeous carer, and her son - upstairs with his pal. We chatted, we laughed, I told stories and reminisced. She listened, she smiled and she nodded.
She was my PE teacher at school. Only 10 years older than us. I adored her. She was an inspiration, and she was my hero. We used to swap records, and she introduced me to the world of 'soul.' Some great singers - Patti Labelle, James Ingram, Quincy Jones and...Patti Austin. Patti Austin was her favourite, and when she left our school after 5 years for another job, I presented her with a picture of Patti that I'd drawn in coloured pencils. She presented me with a tape that she'd made - just for me, with all our favourite singers on there. It was called 'Somethin' Special' after the first track...by Patti Austin. I've still got it, but the writing's a bit faded now.
When we were reunited last year after 20+ years, I learned that she'd had a major stroke and was also suffering from cancer. When I first visited her, she was eager to show me something upstairs. She had a stair lift, and I followed her up, wondering what she was so keen for me to see. It was, of course, the picture of Patti that I'd done for her - on the wall - pride of place. She couldn't talk because of the damned stroke, but boy she could smile - and she really did grin as she saw me recognise the picture.
Visiting her in the last few months, I would talk to her about all sorts of stuff. It was sometimes difficult to keep thinking of things to say, because she couldn't speak. I do, however, remember a wonderful moment where I said 'Ahhh, Patti. Isn't she great.' She smiled and nodded, and I started to sing 'How do you keep the music playing...' She closed her eyes and hummed along, perfectly in tune. I can picture her now.
Her best friend was distraught when she phoned me this afternoon. I can't put into words how amazing this friend has been over the last few years. She has made an incredible difference to the life of my lovely teacher and her son since their world collapsed, and will, no doubt continue to give unconditionally to ensure that her friend's son is ok...
Despite the fact that my eyes are swollen with tears, I am determined to celebrate the life of my lovely teacher. I will remember her fondly, I will talk about her often, and I shall stay in touch with her family and her best friend so that we can talk about old times, smile and laugh.
Somehow, we will find a way to keep the music playing...
I have written a couple of other posts about my favourite teacher on the other blog. 'Heroes' and 'Mother's Love.'