Last month, I sang again at the Memory Center, where my mother lives with her fading mind. I have sung for the residents every 3
or 4 months since my mother moved there 4 years ago. I know what to expect, but this time I was touched yet again by a couple of new realizations.
First, I am singing as much for myself as the residents. A wonderful pianist, Kathryn, who lives nearby, comes to play with me. We have become friends. Singing is a way to give the residents some of their memories back. Two new residents, a man and a woman not much older than me, danced together. He asked her to dance, gently put her purse down so her arms were free, took her hand and waist in the traditional manner, and danced to “After the Ball Was Over.” I could see that he loved to dance and was probably an excellent dancer not too long ago. It was thrilling to watch their joy as they waltzed. Kathryn and I played as many dance tunes as we could find. Everyone sang or smiled.
Another touching moment was when an older gentleman, hunched over and frail, but still walking, came right up to me and held my hand. I was singing the Hoky-Poky. He moved his lips and actually tried to put his right hand in and his left hand out. This man, with advanced Alzheimers, knew what we were doing, He stayed with me for the whole song, holding my hand, looking into my face, moving what he could. The look in his eyes, totally connected to mine, made me want to cry.
I usually keep some distance from Mom while singing for a group of residents. I have noticed that when I come too close, she seems uncomfortable being the focus of attention with me. But for the last song,” This Little Light of Mine,” I bent down in front of her wheelchair and sang to her. Her face teared up. Teary myself, I smiled up at her and kept singing. Yes, you know me. I am special to you. I love you. That moment of eye-to-eye connection came and went in three blinks, but it’s mine now, a treasure in this fading time.