By Sandi Kimmel

Patrick and I were grateful for the opportunity to have an Indian summer getaway. We booked five nights on the northern coast at a place called Asilomar in Pacific Grove, near Monterey. Part rustic conference center, part nature wonderland and one-hundred percent autumn experience.

Originally designed by the famous architect, Julia Morgan, Asilomar featured large wooden structures filled with history and spirit. We were staying in the Stuck-Up Inn, formerly home to the YWCA staff of young women during the 1920s. Spartan but comfortable accommodations, with windows peering into the woods, and the constant call of the ocean just beyond.

The modest price of the room included breakfast, served in the enormous communal dining room. On our first morning, we were seated at the last two seats of a table of 8. It didn't take long for the buzz around the table to be even more energizing than the coffee.

We learned that two of the couples had known each other since grade school, and two of the men had been singing together in a barbershop quartet since high school. All in their 80s now, they told us that every year for the past 40 years they've held a reunion for the four couples, singing to their hearts content. This year, though, they explained that two of the couples weren't able to make it trip for health reasons. Their sadness was palpable.

We looked forward to breakfast every morning to hear their stories. The wives would regale us with details of their adventures the day before, but their husbands always talked about their barbershop quartet and how two of the members weren't able to attend. It didn't matter that we already knew that. They wanted to tell us again anyway.

Each morning I would smile and say, “Well, maybe you could sing together anyway.” They would look away and explain that they were missing their tenor and I baritone, and it just wouldn't sound right. Bob's wife would look at me and say, “I've been asking them that every day and they just won't sing.”

On our last morning we were all feeling a little sad to say our goodbyes. Hugs all around, and Patrick and I returned to our breakfast as they turned to leave. Suddenly, without warning, Bob and Jack leaned in toward each other, took a deep breath and sang to us. They closed their eyes and sang with the most exquisite smiles on their faces. I don’t know what song they sang, but the last word was “harmony,” and it rang through the dining room straight into my heart. Never have I heard more beautiful harmony than the sound of the barbershop duet.



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