Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Listen for the Music

My head snapped to the left when I heard the harmonica music drifting across the St. Luke's Hospital campus on this bright spring afternoon. When I stopped to listen, my therapy dog Sadie—a golden retriever—halted and sat at my side.
        A man sitting on a bench under an oak tree tapped his right foot on the grass while he belted out "You Are My Sunshine."I saw that he'd lost his left leg just below the knee; a pair of crutches leaned beside him on the bench.
When Sadie and I approached, the music stopped and the handsome, dark-haired man's face lit up. "Good morning, you two," he said.
"Love your music," I said. "Brightens an already sunshiny day."
"Thank you! And who have we here?"
"Sadie. She's a therapy dog. We're on our way to make our rounds in the children's wing of the hospital."
Maybe the world's friendliest dog, Sadie didn't wait for any other introduction. She sat in front of the man and wagged her tail fiercely, begging to be petted.
"What a beautiful dog," the man said, scratching her behind the ears, then stroking her forehead. "I'll bet she makes every kid's day."
"She's an attention seeker is what he is." I glanced at my wristwatch. "Look, I'm sorry, but we've got to run. I love your music," I added and rushed off.
Over the last three years, Sadie and I have volunteered to visit hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living centers. This was the first time we had encountered what I thought must be a war veteran, perhaps getting fitted with a prosthetic leg.
His ready smile and handsome features intrigued me. He looked to be my age, forty; and I wondered if Sadie and I would see him again. Though I thought our chances slim, we left early for our next Friday hospital visit, and there sat the man under the oak tree, belting out "Oh, My Darling Clementine."
Sadie tugged at her leash, eager to visit her new friend, and I followed—admittedly, just as eager.
"Hope you two would come by!" he said, smiling and reaching out to pet Sadie as she sat in front of him.
"I'm Megan Hanley," I said. "Sadie and I spend Friday afternoons visiting kids in the hospital."
"Cody Marshall," he said. "Retired Marine Master Sergeant. Getting a final overhaul of my prosthetic. Sometimes the wait is long—you know how that goes. So I sit outside, entertain myself, and wait for a call on my cell phone."
"Love your music," I told him again.
"My granddad taught me all the old, old songs." He smiled, and his warm, dark eyes sparkled. "Sit down and tell me about you and Sadie."
Thus started a conversation that sounded like old friends catching up on each other's life. I told him I was an insurance agent. I was also a widow who adopted Sadie from a shelter. A friend convinced me I should have her trained as a certified therapy dog.
Cody said he was divorced long ago—his former wife hated military life. A roadside bomb in Afghanistan "deprived" him of the lower half of his left leg. As a kid in college, he'd dropped out to join the Marines. After retiring from the service, he finished his degree and now worked as a PE teacher at our local high school.
"You must be a great inspiration to high school kids," I told him.
This time his smile was sheepish. "I have bits of advice I can offer them, yes."
I glanced at my watch. "I'm sorry, but Sadie and I have to go."
He tilted his head and ran a hand through is dark hair. "Will I see you again, Megan?"
My heart stopped. I admit I felt attracted to his handsome Marine veteran. Three years, after my husband died of a heart attack, I'd adopted Sadie to fill a dark avoid in my life, and for a long while I'd felt all we needed was each other. But with Cody Marshall sitting beside me, I wasn't sure.
"Um...Sadie and I'll be gone maybe three hours."
His dark eyes warming me, he said, "I'll be right here.
I'll have my prosthetic back by then. Just listen for the music."
My heart danced to the music in his words. I heaved a big sigh. I patted Sadie's head, and her tail thumped the ground like a hammer. "All right," I said, knowing she highly approved. "Sadie and I will listen for the music."

The End

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