Elaine Soloway's Caregiving Series: Softie
Tommy and I are on a subway platform in Chicago's Loop waiting for the Blue Line to take us home. I’m leaning on a metal column and peering down the track to spot the headlights of the next westward bound train.
My husband has positioned himself on the opposite side and selected his own pillar for support. His eyes are riveted on a pair of musicians a few feet from me. The male plays a guitar and the woman sings — a Spanish song, quite lovely and a nice respite from the clang of trains and chatter of waiting passengers.
An open guitar case is at their feet. Some paper bills are already strewn inside from earlier donors, and perhaps the duo has seeded the case to encourage more.
I leave my train-watching to focus on my husband. I stare as his hand reaches into his pocket. I knew this would be coming. His eyes are misting as he pulls out his wallet and extracts a bill, which I’m hoping is one dollar. He drops it into the guitar case and the duo nods a gracias in his direction.
"Musicians are okay," I had told him earlier. "But the panhandlers on the corner could be scam artists." I believe this is true, for I’ve seen one on crutches suddenly able-bodied and sauntering from his spot near our house.
My husband obeys this rule. As long as he can drop a bill into a musician’s case, he’s a happy philanthropist.
Since I didn’t know Tommy in his younger days, I can’t attest to his generosity back then. But, because he’s always been frugal, I’m assuming he wasn’t so quick on the draw with street musicians and beggars.
I could be wrong, but I think the new largess is part of his current condition. The frontal lobe of the brain affects emotions and ever since his began to deteriorate, he’s become a softie. Along with his charity, he’s a weeper at sad and happy television shows, and bar mitzvahs and weddings.
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