He tells me that he remembers how she told him that if he'd sing a solo at some school event he barely remembers, she'd transpose the music, bring it down to another key so that piece would fit his range. He says that singing a solo in front of people was not what he thought of as a good time when he was in seventh grade, but that she talked him into it, not by ramming his arm up behind his back, but by an enthusiasm that wasn't just in her words but in her eyes.
He says he sang the solo because he knew she seriously wanted him to, even though that seriousness was never expressly verbalized. She had the ability, he claimed, to let you know that her enthusiasm for you was intense and real, without saying it--and that she always wanted the absolute best for you. All the kids knew it, he says.
He says when he did it--the solo--he watched her face. He says her eyes were closed the whole time, but the look on her face expressed intense satisfaction--and joy.
He says that was why the kids loved their substitute teacher. She was so accessible emotionally, and what they instinctively knew was that she honestly wanted the best for them.
He's an old, old acquaintence, a couple of years older than I am. We both went through the same Christian elementary grade school. He called last night because he wanted to ask some questions about fiction. He's written a bunch of books, and now he's interested in trying to take on a novel.
The woman he was talking about, this woman he remembers so well having coaxed the best out of him, that woman is my mother.
We talked about a lot more in two hours' worth of conversation, and not all the stories we shared were that wholesome or sweet. But this morning I'm thankful for that one story, thankful to know more about compelling eyes and silent, earnest love. She's 90, and I'm 61--but I'm happy, this morning, to know her better.