Yesterday afternoon I went to visit Papa and was welcomed to a group of fifteen seniors watching and singing oldies on youtube. They were fascinated that they could mention the name of any musician to the activity director and she would have a video clip playing on the large screen TV in just seconds. The group was singing and twisting along to Chubby Checker performing The Twist, or Frank Sinatra singing My Way. They were tapping their feet as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers were dancing Never Gonna Dance from the movie Swing Time and rocking along to Judy Garland in The Trolley Song from Meet me in St. Louis.
Papa was released from the hospital this week and transferred back to the rehab facility he has been in for the past month. An hour after arriving and settling in, Papa wanted Doug to push him out to the activity room but unfortunately by the time he was processed and dressed the other residents had already retired into their rooms for the night. It was too late, everyone was asleep so he had someone push him back to his room and went to bed. I can only imagine Papa woke up the next morning ready to be in the midst of a group. Maybe now it makes sense that while he was in the hospital he kept wanting to get up and out of bed. He kept asking who was in the hall way standing around the nurse’s station. Did he think he was still in rehab? Who is out there? Isn’t that one of the Fish girls? Why are we here? Who is in the hospital? Shouldn’t I be out there? He was confused about where he was and didn’t want to miss anything.
Papa and one other elderly gentlemen were in the midst of a circle of women singing, they were enjoying pushing their memory to recall music and movies they saw fifty, sixty or even seventy years ago. I walked behind the director and mentioned she should look up Papa’s older brother. The next song on the TV was Frank Marocco playing After You Have Gone on the TV. That is Frank, that is my brother! He has played the accordion since he was six. It was fun to step back and listen to the comments all of the women were making. “He is handsome”, “He’s good”, “I like the accordion”, “Do you play?”, “You sure look like him”. It was the first time I saw Papa open up and talk, telling the group his brother played with Les Brown and toured with Bob Hope. In this moment his mind and his memories were strong and clear. The activity director jotted down Frank’s name and promised to look up more videos for their next impromptu concert. Then one lady, whose social filter has become as worn as Papa’s, blurted out, “there is no singing in this, can’t we find something to sing along to?” Allison will be happy to hear they ended with Be My Baby by the Ronettes.
Papa is still confused, twice he offered to give up his wheelchair if I wanted to sit down, and when I put on my jacket to leave he asked me where I was going. He just looked up at me when I said I was going home. But isn’t this your house? I don’t understand how a mind can be so clear about some events and so foggy on others. How can he ask me if we are home and not wonder who all of the other people living there are? How can he not remember he doesn’t have the strength to stand or walk or know where he is eating his dinner. How can he have such an inability to perceive social cues but remember every word to Somewhere Over the Rainbow even if it is sung by IZ (Israel Kamakawiwo’ole) and not Judy Garland. Papa was not the only one who stopped singing long enough during that video to say, man that guy is big! How can a mind pay such horrible tricks on a person? Hopefully a few nights of sleep will bring back just a bit of the clarity he seems to have quickly lost during his hospitalization. But even if his mind doesn’t clear, I hope that he never forgets the lyrics to Over the Rainbow and that he believes that the dreams that he dares to dream, both day and night, really will come true.
Frank Marocco: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrVidWn75RQ