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By the time you’re eighty years old you’ve learned everything. You only have to remember it. – George Burns.

My girl walks proudly on to the stage clutching her trumpet. She beams when she sees me in the audience and does one of those little low wagging of her fingers, a wave just for me. She takes her position up the back, which is disappointing because it’s difficult to see her; she’s a shorty … just like her mum. But I’ll know I’ll hear her—loud and clear. And I know what she is going to play, because I’ve heard her toot it over and over the past few weeks in preparation for the recital.

“Nonno says practice makes perfect,” my girl tells her dad and I one evening after we’d commented about a particularly long and particularly loud session of tooting. As she walks from the room her ponytail swishes, flicking up at us.

We joke about it later, when she is in bed, “Of course he wouldn’t mind all that tooting …” I say. I don’t need to continue, my husband is already laughing, knowing full well how deaf his father has become in recent years.

The conductor raises his arm and the grade four band lift their instruments into position.
Deep breath.
The concert begins.

A quarter of the way through I notice an odd noise. The old man next to me has fallen asleep. His head leans forward slightly casting a slowly rocking shadow on his neatly-pressed brown shirt. He is snoring. Breathy, old man snores. I glance over at his wife who is watching the children play, she looks at me and shrugs her shoulders a little.

There was a time in my past when I would have been impatient with someone doing such a thing. Falling asleep during my daughter’s concert. I would have found it offensive. I would have been embarrassed. I would have probably made some kind of coughing noise or clapped a little loudly in an effort to jolt them awake.
But now I feel different.
I feel a little chuckle welling up inside me. But I suppress it because I don’t want to disturb him.

At the end of the concert my girl runs up to me. “Did you see me Mum?” she says brandishing her shiny instrument. “Yes, I’m so proud,” I say. “You were brilliant!”
“Nonna, did you like my duet?” she asks.
“Yes bella,” Her Grandmother replies. “You played so well and I can tell it was Nonno’s favourite part too.” She leans in close to her granddaughter and whispers, “I know because he stayed awake for that part.” They laugh and Nonno smiles. But I don’t think he heard … because he isn’t wearing his hearing aid today.

Tonight when the sun goes down I will be raising a glass of Italian dolce Spumante to my Father-in-law. Proposing a toast to the gathered family and friends on the occasion of his 80th birthday.

I usually spend ages crafting what I will say at events such as these. But this time it was easy. One sentence is all I need.

To Dante,
I’ve never met a man who cares as much, or has worked as hard for his family, as you.
Buon compleanno.
Happy 80th birthday.

This post was inspired by the writing prompt: “What’cha goin’ to do when the sun goes down tonight?!” from Scott Peters. Thank you.
Memories are life.

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