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How I Killed Two People with my Accordion<<<...Previous... So I dragged a chair in from the waiting room and started to play. The Old Rugged Cross. Onward Christian Soldiers. Beulah Land. Amazing Grace. Turkey in the Straw. Oh Susannah. Carry me back to old Virginie. Etc, etc. etc. My repertoire is enormous; if I've heard it a few times I can play it. From time to time Grandma lifted one finger, waving it in time to a particular hymn, still leading the choir. At one point I stopped and she turned her head, almost glaring. "Go on!" she demanded. I did.
It got dark, and my shoulders were absolutely on fire. That was it. "One more," I told her. Playing The Old Rugged Cross a last time, I put my accordion away. I thought perhaps she was asleep, but when I kissed her forehead and told her I had to leave, she smiled contentedly.
Uncle Theo, now a nervous wreck, spun out almost before I got into the car, saying he was taking me to my parents house for dinner, and Daddy could take me home afterwards. When we arrived, my mother ran out, wringing her hands in distress.
"Grandma has passed away," she said. "Didn't you see the nurses running out shouting at you when you drove out?"
The nurse had gone in to remove my chair, went over to check on Grandma, and she was gone, a lovely smile on her face. She was, indeed, celebrating with the angels.
Third part, years later. I worked for the Fuller Brush Manager Fernando Hurtado for some years and owned and ran a small warehouse of their products for local reps. I had an assistant, Burt Coppage, who was far too smart to be working for me but had nothing better to do, and also had a wicked sense of humor.
During this time on rare occasions someone would persuade me to haul out the old accordion and play a song or three, vigorously, mostly accurately, but not exactly up to Lawrence Welk standards.
Burt hates the accordion. Especially he hates "Lady of Spain" played on the accordion, so I was always sure to do that for him, just to hear what new derogatory remarks he'd come up with.
One day one of our reps came in; she'd been crying. Her elderly father had undergone a bypass, more or less unwillingly, and healing was not going well to the point he was restrained, entubed, etc. He made his feelings clear that he wanted nature to take its course. Our rep's family thought she was an unfeeling and unnatural daughter to agree with him, as they were instructing the doctors to take all steps to preserve life.
"Do you think I'm wrong?" she asked.
"Not at all," I told her, "Let me tell you about my experience." And I proceeded to tell her the story about Grandmother Tupper.
"That's a beautiful story," she told me, tears running down her face. "Imagine that she died listening her favorite hymns."
"That's not at all hard to imagine," Burt chimed in, with a disgusted look on his face. "You haven't heard Bess play the accordion!"
I've seen this quote several times: "A gentleman is a man who can play the accordion but doesn't." --unknown Or a lady, in Spain or elsewhere, I'm sure Burt would add.
Last: After Hurricane Andrew our business was so destroyed that I had to lay Burt off, and he moved on to bigger and better things, doing this and that for a while before settling in to display and window dressing with a major retailer on South Beach. (For some years now he is a full-time member of a religious organization.) The AIDS epidemic was in full swing, and Burt got free medical care for a while by doing volunteer work visiting AIDS patients who were dying at home. One particular patient was in the last throes of the disease, in great pain and discomfort when Burt arrived. Burt asked what he could do for him.
"Nothing," was the reply, "I just want to get this over with. I only want to die."
"Isn't there anything I can tell you or do for you to cheer you up? How about a joke or a funny story?"
"Nothing," was the answer.
Inspiration hit. Burt told the Grandma Tupper story, starting with the rep whose father wanted to die. When he came to the punch line, "You haven't heard her play the accordion," the fellow started laughing so hard he had a stroke and died on the spot. Burt had mixed emotions, upset, relieved....
That night he called me and told me about it. "Bess," he added, "I want you to know you have now killed two people with your accordion!"
I sold my accordion. It was too heavy, anyway. <<<...Previous...