October 2, 2013
I have a crush on a 98 year old man. I sing one-on-one to and with elders, most of whom have some degree of cognitive impairment or dementia. It’s one of the most fun and rewarding things I’ve ever done, and it’s an absolute joy to get to know people at such an intimate time in their lives.
My “crush” is one of my regular clients whom I visit every week or two at the nursing facility where he lives. Mr. S. is always upbeat, social, and a bit of a flirt. Because of his memory impairment, he has told me many, many times about what must be some of his most treasured memories. In his early 20’s (around 1935), he was a member of a quartet that drove to small churches all around Central Texas every Sunday to perform for residents in those out-of-the way communities who didn’t get much entertainment. He was a proud member of the University of Texas Longhorn Marching Band, playing trombone and holding the pivotal front-row, right-hand position. He served in the U.S. Navy during WWII. He worked at the same company for his entire career, starting as a “helper” and working his way to upper management. He loved driving a ski boat at his lake house and once pulled five skiers at the same time – which he said didn’t work out so well. He is a funny and fascinating person.
At my first visit, when I introduced myself and told him I was there to sing, he immediately asked if I knew the song, Dance Around In Your Bones. I could tell by the twinkle in his eye that this was a little game he had played with people before. I mean, really, have you ever heard of Dance Around In Your Bones? I confessed that I didn’t, and we went on to sing a lot of other old songs together. But periodically he’d ask again, “Do you know Dance Around In Your Bones?” with the same mischievous grin.
Taking it as a challenge – and because I was curious – I found the song on YouTube and learned it before my next visit. When I again introduced myself and explained that I was there to sing, he immediately asked, “Do you know Dance Around In Your Bones?” This time I was able to reply, “As a matter of fact I do. Would you like me to sing it?” He was amazed and delighted. Because he is forgetful, he asked me four or five more times during the session if I knew the song, and each time was thrilled anew when I said yes, and sang it for him.
And at each subsequent visit, when I’ve introduced myself, he has always been happy to “meet” me as if for the first time, and has always asked if I knew the song. So imagine my own delight when I walked into his room last week, introduced myself as usual, and his reply was, “I remember you. You’re the one who taught me Dance Around In Your Bones.” I’m pretty sure I’m in love!
In case you’re curious now, here’s a 1929 recording of Lee Morse singing Dance Around In Your Bones