We'll Meet Again

Beverley scanned the bright conservatory. Elderly people were seated around the edges. Her gaze rested on Fred. How will he be today? She thought. She walked over to him looking into his eyes for any recognition. Her blonde ponytail flicked side to side as she walked.

"Now then, Fred, would you like a cup of tea?" She bent and plumped up the cushion that was behind him, then he rested back against it.

She started singing.

"She's off again, " joked Dawn, who was serving tea to one of the other residents.

Beverly had always liked singing, and what could be better than improving people’s lives with her music. Here at Sandringham Residential Home she had plenty of chances.

She'd been there two weeks, and she'd already had chance to wake up some of the residents with her version of ‘Baby Hit Me One More Time’.

"Why, that’s a bit much at seven on a Sunday, pet," her colleague Dawn had teased. Beverley had been too concerned with moving Eileen from bed to wheelchair to take much notice of the effects of her voice. She had been pleased to be helping and that's what had mattered.

Now she looked into Fred's eyes, but his gaze went right through her. If she could just connect with him through her music, she thought, that would be epic.

Fred scowled. "Wireless, isn't working right, Violet."

His wife sat in the straight-backed chair next to him. She looked up, cloudy blue eyes widening at the mention of her name. It was unusual for Fred to use it, often he was in another world.

Bev’s heart dropped. She'd wanted to brighten his day, not give him another problem.

Violet smiled. "I'm here, love.” She looked hopeful, but there was no recognition in his eyes.

Bev put the tea down on the beech table between the two of them. "Your tea's here, Fred," she said, "and I'll pop yours next to it, Violet."

Bev was starting to wonder if she had what it took to cheer them up. She knew she was no Britney Spears but she didn't think she was too bad.

Eileen made her wonder when she was walking her back to the conservatory after dinner. She was in her wheelchair, and telling Beverley that her husband had been in the army. Bev could imagine him in his uniform during the war and began to feel patriotic. She started singing ‘God Save our Gracious Queen’… Eileen looked uncomfortable. She had a quizzical expression on her face and Bev wondered if she was sitting on her packet of tissues again.

"But I can't stand up," she said, defeated.

Oh, thought Bev, I'd forgotten you're supposed to stand up to the National Anthem. She felt a pang of embarrassment. She bent down to look at her in the face. "Sorry, Eileen, silly beggar me." And they both laughed. She wanted to help but she kept getting it wrong.

She needed to find out what the best songs to sing to the residents would be. Later in the laundry room, she had chance to ask Dawn.

"Why I should think the old war-time songs would be good 'uns, I mean, bearing in mind the ages o' this crowd," Dawn said. ‘It's A Long Way To Tipperary’, and stuff."

Bev decided. On her days off she would learn some of the old songs and she'd be able to sing them to the residents next week.

The following Sunday, Bev took the tea to Eileen, singing ‘We'll Meet Again, don’t know where, don't know when, but I know we'll meet again some sunny day.’

Eileen burst into tears and Fred said, "What's wrong with Vera, has she got a cold?"

“It isn’t Vera, Fred” said Violet. “It’s the tea lady.”

It took Bev ten minutes to dry up Eileen's tears. Bev handed her another tissue and she blew her nose. “That song reminds me of my Bert,” Eileen said. “When the war was on, we didn’t know if he’d come home or not. We ‘ad to live one mealtime to the next.”

Bev felt a pang of blackness.

“Mind you, he did get back safe and sound,” she said. “I do miss him.”

Nobody knew until then. Now it was out in the open she could talk about him with the other ladies.

Bev breathed a sigh of relief.

But then there was the problem of Fred.

Bev asked Violet, "Who's Vera?"

“Vera Lynn. She used to sing when we were young. We used to love listening to her on the wireless. And the Glenn Miller sound. They were beautiful. We used to dance to them in the Town Hall."

That gave Bev an idea for her days off.

The next Sunday came and Bev drew her tea trolley into the conservatory. She put her IPad and speaker on the side. After she had settled everyone with their drinks, she plugged it in and pressed play.

Eileen was just taking a sip of tepid tea and Fred was looking blank. The sound of ‘Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree, With Anyone Else But Me’, flared from the speaker. Fred looked up at the pewter haired lady sitting next to him. “Violet?” He looked lovingly into her eyes.

Eileen started to sway from side to side in her arm chair, and a balding, dark-haired man started drumming his fingers in time with the beat. Most people in the conservatory looked more alert and engaged than they had done. Violet placed her hand on Fred's and he kept his hand under hers. They both looked content.

Bev had managed to download an album of Glenn Miller music and she was overjoyed with the response.

She could still practise her singing in the shower until she was pitch perfect. Until then she knew she was doing a great job bringing music into the Home. And with the age of this crowd, she thought, there was plenty of music she could choose from.

 

By S.Whitehead