Diminuendo


Karina is an innocent-looking Hispanic girl whose face reveals gentleness along with some baby fat. Her buddy, Clarence, is an African-American man with a big, broad smile, jolly eyes and a crisply ironed button-down shirt. “She sticks with me!” he says of Karina with wonder. Clarence prefers visiting in his room to the noisy activities room where the rest of the Memory Bridge group is meeting.

About himself, Clarence says, “I’m very old, generally. I talk very slowly.” He has also, he says, “always been a scholar.”

Clarence and Karina are talking about music, one of his favorite subjects. “There is a lot of classical music I admire,” he says. “I like Beethoven, Bach and Brahms… the three Bs… although some of Bach’s music is too slow and measured. I like Vivaldi, the ‘Four Seasons.’ Especially ‘Winter’… ‘Winter’ gets to be interesting. I don’t like country music very well. It doesn’t appeal to me... I don’t like too much rock either. I’m just getting used to the fast beat. Growing up I liked the British music… I’ve always been interested in music.”

He tells Karina about his career as a teacher. “I went to the Chicago Teachers College,” he says. “I think I was a good teacher.” He also tells her that he is writing a book about Black America.

Karina asks whether he was a soldier in World War II. He tells her that he went to officer training but didn’t serve overseas. He chuckles when she mentions that Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. “You remember that?” he laughs. She points out that she learned it in school.

Suddenly, Clarence becomes very upset. He is weeping, and pleads with Karina, over and over, “Don’t make the same mistakes I did. Don’t let them make you choose. Please, don’t make the same mistakes.”

Karina isn’t sure what to do. Should she get someone to help? Try to distract him? Tell him that everything’s OK? She racks her brain, trying to remember the things she has learned in Memory Bridge classes.

When it is time to leave, the Memory Bridge coordinator finds Karina in Clarence’s room, sitting with him while he cries.


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