Hanceville, Alabama—this town is a wide spot in the road. Quaint downtown. Old houses with fading paint. Crowded barbecue joint. No bars.
The rehab center and nursing home is a cinder block building with keypad locks and alarm systems. White hallways. Fluorescent lights. Smells like Lysol.
I’m here today to play piano.
Christy is a therapist here. She’s been in this line of work for thirty-one years. She helps the elderly, the affected, and the injured find their seats.
“I love older folks. Always have. These people are everything to me.”
Here at the rehab there is plenty of love.
An older man in Auburn University colors arrives in the chapel. He drives a motorized wheelchair. He shakes my hand with his left hand—his right hand doesn’t work.
He speaks. His words are not clear. But his smile talks for him.
A woman rolls her chair behind him. She is not old. She is a middle-aged, blonde, blue eyes. Her hands don’t work well, but her mind is a razor.
She asks me to play “I’ll Fly Away.”
I play. She cries.
friend,” she says. “He died last week. They’re laying him in the ground today at two. I can't go to the funeral.”
She is grieving him hard today.
Another man introduces himself. An old man. His eyes become puddles when he stares at me.
“Oh my God,” he says. “I coulda swore you was my son. You look just like my boy.”
We shake hands. He has a firm grip.
Another woman arrives, riding in a reclining chair. A lady in scrubs positions her near the piano.
“I’m eighty-six,” she says. “Born in thirty-one, went through the Depression.”
We talk. I learn that she's endured more than a Depression. She endured it all.
Her father was murdered when she was twelve. Her sickly brother was bedridden. As a child she was a caregiver. A breadwinner. A…