I’m putting the dishes in the dishwasher and I hear some piano notes. My son Afonso is playing. I smile and I think of a time, long ago, when he was five and asked to take piano lessons at nursery school. We bought him that small piano as he had to practice every day at home. Which he did. His teacher had said he was very good at it and he played a song at the school’s Christmas party that year. I remember us, proud parents, watching him play, although I cannot remember the song.
Tonight I recognise the song he is playing. It’s Elton John’s “Can You feel the love tonight”, a romantic melody from the soundtrack of “The Lion King”, Afonso’s favourite Disney movie, that he watched countless times while singing song after song. At the time I think his favourite was “Hakuna Matata”, but we also loved “The circle of life”. I had the CD on my car and when I drove him and Pedro to school in the mornings we’d sing all along the way – not that it was far, but still it was fun.
Now he comes into the kitchen with his piano and he sits down: “Mom, can I play for you?” “Of course, my darling, I love to hear you play”. He plays, and I think it’s amazing because he plays by ear, he only had a year of piano lessons and he has no knowledge of music, but knowing the song he looks for the notes and then he puts them all together so that he can play the whole song. I have often told him I would be happy to pay for some piano lessons, but he has little time, with University and rugby trainings…still, I believe playing the piano relaxes him.
While he plays I sing the words very softly, so as not to spoil his concentration. I look at him, intently looking at the keyboard, trying not to miss a note and I think of so many things, of the anxiety of the past few weeks, of how bravely he has faced such a daunting possibility in his life, of the anguish we have all felt while trying to keep it from each other, of the faith we all have that all will end well…but above all, as he plays a song about love I think of all the love I have felt for this son of mine, from the first moment I knew he existed inside of me, to the moment I first looked at him and fell totally, absolutely, helplessly in love. How I saw him grow from a baby to a toddler – and how cute he was, with his huge expressive blue eyes and his golden brown hair and his sweet baby voice – and then a little boy, who went on growing until he became a big boy and the man he is now. How difficult it was to go through his teens, when he was a rebel and sometimes I almost felt he hated me, and then how good it felt when it all went away and I suddenly realised I had a grown up son. How worried I was when he was operated on his knee so that he might go on playing rugby and how proud I was when he entered university after a year of huge effort! How happy and fulfilled I feel when I look at him and see the man he has become – a man with values, dreams, a man I trust completely; a man who is happy at university studying the subjects he loves, who is happy with the lovely girl he has been dating for almost four years with a few months’ interruption that brought them together in the end and even closer…and this beautiful man is my son, and while he is here, a stranger to the turmoil of thoughts that assail me, concentrating on this song, I think there is no love greater than this one I feel for him (and his brother), as there is no anguish greater than when I think something may befall them; as there is no greater happiness than when I see they are well and happy…
My work in the kitchen is done but still I linger. I lean against the kitchen counter and I close my eyes and let the melody invade me. Deep in my heart I know all will be well with him. He will go on to live his life and have a bright future, I know; I feel it so strongly that suddenly I am completely at peace, enjoying this unique moment, while my son goes on playing that song that means so much to me.
Oh yes, I can feel the love tonight. This night, and in all the nights of my life, because this love I know will last forever. No matter what.