Our walls were thin, which probably explained why the rent was cheap. J and I lived on a bottom floor apartment as newlyweds. And every evening, as dependable as the six o’clock news, the music began. Sinatra and his cohorts Tony Bennett and Sammy Davis Jr., and sometimes Rosemary Clooney belted out classics that dripped down the vents from the upstairs, one bedroom, to ours. We heard a static filled record player as the needle scratched vinyl, repeating a crooner’s line over and over. In the beginning, we rolled our eyes and thought it bizarre. But as the days and months wore on, the big band era was just another noise as common as the washing machine and the built-in microwave. We grew to enjoy the old melodies.
I eventually met the man who lived upstairs. He’d lost his wife to cancer. His deep-set wrinkles and white furry brow revealed a life long-lived. We’d often meet outside where I’d follow behind a rambunctious puppy and he would stand grounded with an obedient terrier at his heels. I began to leave leftovers or day old sweets on his doorstep before I hurried off to work. And by the afternoon, he’d always return the plate, shiny and clean and with a scribbled note of thanks.
But on a fall evening, when his record player should have been circling, it was the blare of sirens that rang into our little place we called home. And he was gone. His death slipped in quiet, leaving behind a hushed, vacant apartment.
We really weren’t that different. We both were moving ahead, feet shuffling from day-to-day. Life has a way of nudging us forward without needing our permission. And often I want to suspend it in mid-air, to keep children from growing a bit older, to stay in this age of 30’s, to settle into comfort. But God gently urges us on because there is more to do, more to say and more to live.