When in doubt, sing

Fred and I are alone in the TV room at the nursing home. I can’t get the television to work—too many buttons and accessories. I have run out of stories, and no activities are scheduled for another hour. The other residents are still in the dining room finishing lunch.

Before I left home, I prayed, asking whether I should bring the dog to help me entertain my husband or my guitar to play some songs. But the message I kept getting was “neither.” Now here, I know the dog would have been too disruptive during today’s early lunch, and putting on a performance would have kept me from focusing on Fred. I have made this extra trip because Fred was in a bad way yesterday. He started the day hollering and hitting people, then spent the rest of the day weeping. I didn’t know what I would find today, but God told me, “Just bring yourself.”

So now I sat with Fred on the plasticized sofa staring at a blank TV. I stroked his age-mottled hand, rubbed his white-stubbled cheek. He was in a good mood, but I feared he might start to cry in this long silence. I took a deep breath and began to sing “Dashing through the snow . . . ” Immediately this man who can’t form a sentence started singing a perfect bass accompaniment to my soprano melody. We went from “Jingle Bells” to “Jingle Bell Rock” to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” I went through every lively Christmas song I could think of. With no sheet music to rely on, I occasionally mangled the words, but it didn’t matter. Our two voices connected us in a way that nothing else could. We both felt the magic.

At last an aide came to make the TV work, and we settled in to watch an old episode of “Gunsmoke.” But the music lingered in the air.

On the night we met 27 years ago, I was singing. Music remains the shining thread that holds us together in spite of Alzheimer’s Disease. God gave me a voice. When in doubt, I must sing.

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