By Janet Call
I have had a hard time accepting that I am now 70 so I really did not want to go……a Thursdays-After-5 concert and food truck dinner at the Senior Center could mean only one thing…..a stark admission that I am now one of them. Nevertheless, I ordered my burger and chips, grabbed the cold bottle of water, adjusted my mask, and sauntered onto the spacious patio. I glanced around, then selected a seat at the periphery to observe my companions for the evening. The crowd was about 60 or 70 strong, more women than men. They were a quiet bunch, nestled into their camp chairs that I surmised had not seen a real camp site in years. Some of the women wore long sleeved sweaters despite the warm temperature or flowered shirts that looked like the old draperies from my grandmother’s dining room. Their hair was mostly a sea of silver or dull grey, some permed to sport tight curls. Few of the men had any hair at all, and those who did had arranged their remaining grey strands to make it appear as though they still had a reason to own a comb. They wore mostly long dark pants and nondescript shirts, although a pair of khaki shorts here and there revealed spindly legs and white socks with sandals. It was impossible not to spot the walking canes and occasional walkers as a steady whoosh from an oxygen machine lingered in the background. They held no cell phones in their hands, just an occasional tissue or water bottle.
The night’s performer, ironically named Bobby Graves, warmed up; he too admitted that he had joined our ranks—born in double 5’s as he put it. His hair was still long and shaggy, and he reminded me of my hippie boyfriend from the 60’s. I felt for him as he started, convinced that it would be impossible to spark enthusiasm from this audience. They chuckled politely as he tried to joke with them. What did the fish say when he bumped the wall? Dam! But then the lines from the songs ….The plans we made put an end to it….I need weed….watching the tide roll in…..started to resonate and each stroke of the guitar and rich baritone filtered across the patio and into the plush landscape that surrounded us. I watched a woman toss her long silver hair and I could visualize her once striding confidently across some college campus. A man seated in front of me reached across tenderly to hold the hand of the woman next to him and she smiled and blushed in a familiar way. When the singer belted out “You Got a Friend in Me” from the Toy Story movie, I could tell that almost everyone had a connection, perhaps from watching it with grandchildren or recalling that one immutable decades-long friendship.
Eventually we all tapped our feet or swayed or smiled or sang along, music being the elixir transporting us to another place and time. Eventually I abandoned my reticence to be one of them. Instead, I inspected the wrinkles etched across their faces or the noticeable scars on their hands envisioning their challenges and stories and dreams; I imagined the steps that they had taken on their individual journeys and our shared human condition. I understood that our collective imprint on the world came with a fair share of triumph and tragedy, laughter and tears, wonder and disillusionment. We were the teachers and mechanics and parents and artists — survivors, drawn together to enjoy some music on a warm September evening in 2021 in Charlottesville Virginia. As the concert ended, a few hawks appeared above, their dark wings soaring prominently against the vivid blue sky. They swooped in as if to take a closer look, and then satisfied that nothing was dead or dying here, disappeared into the passing clouds as the last notes lingered ever so majestically.
Janet Call is a loving grandmother, an avid reader, and wine connoisseur. She retired after over 40 years as a teacher and published her first novel Empty Desk at age 68.