At the close of my narrative, I suddenly became aware that the classical music was no longer playing. I could hear the rising wind, buffeting against the front door. The old man gazed at me. Without blinking, he gently and quietly asked me, “What do you want?”
When I entered his shop that question would have been easy to answer—to get my book fixed! Now I knew his question was asking for something deeper that could only be answered with deeper understanding. He sensed my thoughts and lightened the atmosphere.
“Would you like more tea?” He reached for the steaming teapot.
"Why, yes," I answered, glad to have a break from the intense moment.
As I watched him, I became anxious again. He filled my teacup to the brim. Thankfully, he stopped before it spread over the table, but then he asked a curious thing, "Would you like some more?" Before I could answer, he stated, "It would be difficult to add more as it seems your cup is quite full."
I looked up and he began to laugh, showing a naturally beautiful smile. It was contagious! I began to laugh along with him. It was the first time that I had joyfully laughed out loud in…well, I couldn’t remember.
He composed himself rather quickly and again began studying the book in earnest. "I have a proposal for you regarding this book," he said. “I have gathered from our talk that you presently have few hobbies and besides your family, presently no interests outside of dentistry. Would you be interested in working with me on this book? I can educate you on the art and science of book restoration. We can learn together the reasons the binding is failing. We can study our options and ensure that it does not happen again. Does this sound like a good plan for you?”
I found myself nodding in agreement.
"I promise that what you learn here will not take away from your time with your family. In fact, what you learn may allow you to have more time for your family, in addition to creating time outside of your profession to pursue other interests."
Although I did not entirely understand the connection between bookbinding and family time, I was intrigued by the questions that had arisen from my meaningful interview with this bookbinder. We rose together from the comfortable chairs.
I assumed that he would keep the book for his analysis to save time at our next meeting but he surprised me again, saying, "Take the book home with you. I would like you to study the book and tell me what you discovered at our next appointment. Then, we will look at it together. Could we meet next Wednesday afternoon?"
I found myself nodding in agreement as I remembered that I had told him I didn't see patients on Wednesday afternoons.
"Good. Count on a couple of hours. I'll be looking forward to our next appointment."
I had felt surprisingly comfortable talking with Mr. Tautell. Even though he had called it a conversation, I had had felt good to have someone listen to me who was genuinely curious about what I had to say. As I walked outside with my father’s book in hand, it was apparent that there had not only been a change in the weather but also in my mood. I was looking forward to our appointment.