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A chapter from “Valley Road: Uplifting Stories from Down South”by Gary Lloyd, complete with video of the man playing the piano:
As long as I have known him, he has played the piano.
At Christmas, Mr. Darby would play “Jingle Bells” and “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” at my grandmother’s house. He could have played professionally, and there is no doubt about that.
When I moved into my grandmother’s old house not far from Trussville, Alabama, the brown Wurlitzer piano remained. Its top held framed engagement and wedding photos, and its bench often acted as a resting place for bills and other mail. I never played, but there was a time, when my wife and I lived there, that Jessica would sit down on that piano bench and play. Our dog, Abby, sat with her.
When we moved out, the piano again remained. It stayed when a family friend moved in, and after he left. It has stayed since my mother-in-law moved into the house. She likes the piano there, and so do I. It provides a glimpse into the past.
The man who tickled those ivories for so many years is in his nineties now and has lived in a retirement community for a number of years. He has battled severe dementia. When he has called my parents’ house and spoken to me, he has believed I am actually my dad. When I have visited him at the retirement community, he has asked the same questions over and over. He doesn’t remember asking them the first time. Each time, I just answer him, as if it is the first time he’s asked.
This retirement community has a spacious lobby area, almost like a huge living room. There are couches, women at tables playing card games, and a huge, glass case filled with fluttering birds.
There is also a piano.
We visited the Piano Man on September 1, 2014, to see him for his birthday, which was the following week. Mr. Darby wore gray slacks and a teal sweater, and I wondered how in the world people can wear sweaters in September in Alabama.
Somehow, we convinced him to sit down at the piano and play. I wondered how he would know what to play, how he would remember which keys to press. He sat down, and muscle memory took over. He played “It Had To Be You,” not messing up a single time in a video recording that lasted one minute and four seconds. I couldn’t believe that a man who often forgot my name could do this. It was remarkable.
Elderly women stopped dealing cards. Men, aided by their walkers, came to sit closer. The staff looked on. Everyone clapped. Mr. Darby’s cheeks reddened.
That song has been recorded by famous surnames such as Sinatra, Holiday, Charles, Bennett and Stewart.
Call me biased, but I would add Darby to the top of that list.
My full house is complete.
Two fiction novels and three works of nonfiction.
And due to work and graduate school, I may not be publishing another book for quite a while, despite having several ideas in mind. Who knows, though? Maybe I’ll have another published in the near future. It’s something I love doing.
So, in the meantime, why not provide a quick video rundown of Trussville, Alabama: A Brief History, Deep Green, Heart of the Plate, Valley Road: Uplifting Stories from Down South, and Ray of Hope?
In the video, I briefly talk about each book, summarizing the plot and letting you know where you can find each. I even profess my feelings for the Atlanta Braves, a tumultuous relationship that I can’t seem to quit.
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Check out the video below.
All proceeds to benefit Ray of Hope nonprofit
MOODY, Ala. – Author Gary Lloyd has released his fifth book, Ray of Hope.
Jimmy Ray was quiet, shy, and humble, but even the most unassuming people have burning passions in their hearts. Jimmy’s was for the disabled, those in northwest Florida who were stuck inside their homes because they could not afford to have wheelchair ramps built. That bothered Jimmy to his core. He began constructing wheelchair ramps with the help of his wife and young daughter, and along the way, a church ministry was born. It became Jimmy’s mission in life. Men, women, and children volunteered. Money and materials were donated. More than five hundred lives were changed forever. In Ray of Hope, Jimmy’s passion is revealed by family, friends, and more than a dozen people who received wheelchair ramps when they had nowhere else to turn.
Jimmy was Lloyd’s father-in-law, but Lloyd never had the chance to meet him. Jimmy died on Feb. 28, 2010, two years before Lloyd met his daughter, Jessica. Ray of Hope’s publication date is eight years to the day after Jimmy’s death.
“The idea for this book came in 2016 on a ride to the Atlanta airport,” Lloyd said. “Jimmy’s wife, Ramona, was driving Jessica and me there for a trip we were going on, and we spent some time talking about Jimmy and the Ray of Hope organization, which builds wheelchair ramps for those in need. I discovered that the nonprofit had built more than 500 ramps in northwest Florida alone, and I knew that this man’s story, this ministry’s purpose, needed to be told in a book.”
Ray of Hope was published through CreateSpace Independent Publishing. The book is available on http://www.Amazon.com for $10 and on Kindle as an e-book for $7.99. All proceeds from the book’s sales will benefit the Ray of Hope nonprofit organization.
Lloyd is also the author of Trussville, Alabama: A Brief History, Deep Green, Heart of the Plate, and Valley Road: Uplifting Stories from Down South.
Lloyd has been a journalist in Mississippi and Alabama. He grew up in Trussville, Ala., and earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from The University of Alabama in 2009. He lives in Moody, Ala., with his wife, Jessica, and their two dogs, Abby and Sonny.
For more information, email email@example.com. Also visit http://www.garylloydbooks.squarespace.com and Like his author page at http://www.facebook.com/GaryLloydAuthor.
For more information about Ray of Hope, find the “Ray of Hope Wheelchair Ramps” page on Facebook.