Monday, February 18, 2008

nessun dorma! (never sleep, i think)

i wanted to do something for them for valentine's day, but i didn't want to make anything nor buy anything. they are my heroes and i wanted them to know how much i care.

letting that thought rest, as i was looking for my exercise dvd on february 13, i spotted a cd, "paul potts: one chance", which ashley gave me for christmas. using a knife to remove the plastic, i opened the cd and inserted it into the player. with the first note, i recognized paul potts as being the guy i had seen on the english version of american idol.

on june 7, 2007, paul potts strolled onto the audition stage of britain's got talent. he looked a fright, as if he had rolled out of bed, went out the door, and here he stood in rumpled clothes, hair sticking up, teeth sticking out--didn't look like much of a talent to simon cowell, who sneeringly asked him what he was going to do.

"opera", said paul.

"let's hear it", replied simon in a derisive tone of voice.

suddenly, out of the misshapen mouth of an employee at a mobile phone store, arose a magnificent version of puccni's "nessun dorma". at the conclusion of the aria, paul potts received a standing ovation from the audience of 2,000 people. even simon was grinning ear-to-ear.

as i listened to the cd, i knew this was my valentine to give. the next day, february 14, twelve residents of the new horizons assisted living center, plus ten of us from the plains/paradise united methodist church were seated together for our weekly hour of singing, laughing, joking, and story-telling. we sang five foot two, eyes of blue, down by the old mill stream, a tisket, a tasket, and several other songs with funny actions. cliff and harry accompanied us on their guitars. several of us told stories about being in the rain or in a hailstorm. as usual, jack, our 93-year-old songster, had entertained us with his good wit and a capella folk-songs.

it was close to the end of our hour, when cliff said, "stephany, do you have something for us?"

"yes," i said, as the director of the center inserted the paul potts cd into the machine and pressed the play button.

strains of nessun dorma filled the room, as each person felt their own emotions to the stirring rendition. as the aria ended, the door opened, as if on cue. five members of the sheltered workshop joyfully burst into the room, carrying a huge pink and red balloon bouquet for each resident.

we paused, held hands in a circle, and recited the lord's prayer. like i said, they're my heroes.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

22 years later.....

She gave it to me for Christmas when she was 15. I don't recall asking for it, so she must have thought I needed it, the brown leather address book with gold lines running around the edges. It was an ordinary book, yet special because she gave it to me.

I think another part of the gift was for her to write all my addresses in it, because as I turn to the A section, I see Ashbill's TV Service, Dave & Jean Arnold, Doris Anderson, Roger Allenbrand, and Linda Affholder, all in her handwriting. Turning to the B's, I notice Helen Betts, Boschi Family, Blue Valley Schools, Dr. John Berry, Dermatologist, Blue Valley North, and Blue Valley High, again in her handwriting. Curious, I flip to the C's, and--nothing. She had good intentions, but some holiday vacation activity lured her away from the task.

Taking over the task, I completed the book in a few weeks, or so I thought. Little did I know it then, but that address book would chronicle our lives for the next twenty-two years.

Ten years after receiving my beloved address book, I realized I needed a new one, and during that time I bought several that ended up on a shelf. Two years ago, an address book caught my eye as I wandered through Border's. On the cover was a blonde bombshell from the 1930's. The title, "Born to Be Bad" was emblazoned in large letters on the front cover. Hidden in the bombshell's tresses were the tiny letters, Address Book.

"Now this is an address book I could like," I said to myself, as I purchased it without looking at the price. I took it home and stuck it in my closet, still in its sack.

The next year, I was getting more serious about my new address book. I took it out of its sack and vowed that whenever I received a new phone number or new address or made a new friend, I would write this information in the new book. I would do this with pencil, I vowed, so I could erase people who died, people who got married and needed to change pages because they had a different last name, or just plain eliminate people with whom I had lost contact over the years. It seemed like a workable plan.

Then my emotions took over. I didn't want to erase people who died. I wanted to remember them. I didn't want to forget about people I hadn't seen nor talked to for years. The people who got married were no problem. This emotional stall lasted another year.

This Christmas, when it was time to send out my Christmas cards and letter, I got tough with myself.

"Okay, whenever you write a card, simply write the address two times--once on the envelope and once in the new address book," I told myself. This actually worked, although I loved looking at all the people who died, people who had changed names, and people who no longer made the cut for Christmas cards, all in my old book. I realized that my old brown leather address book, now held together with packing tape on the outside and hole reinforcers on the inside, was a chronicle of my life and by eliminating it, I was moving on to a new life.

So, today, twenty-two years later, I closed the old brown address book for the last time. I can't bring myself to throw it away--not yet, at least. That will take more mental toughness than I possess right now. I'll still have it, but not be using it. I'll love it forever, that silly thing.

It's just one more reason I'll love Ashley forever for giving it to me.