Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Delights of "When Swing Was King"

A Guest Column from Claire...

The Delights of "When Swing Was King"

There are several scenes from our recent “When Swing Was King” presentations that I’m going to treasure for quite awhile.  One of them is Denny sitting down talking to the three ladies that surrounded him after a program at Pacific Springs.  There were talking and laughing and having such a wonderful time that only the activities director having to close up the room could finally put an end to their fun.

Another memorable moment was at Lindenwood when Lyle and Anna got up and started dancing to a Mills Brothers song we have in this volume.  We had heard stories about Lyle’s prowess on the dance floor back in his younger days and we had seen evidence of his rhythmic grace even as he moved with the music in his chair.  But, though a bit unsteady on his legs nowadays, this unusual moment was a real crowd pleaser.  And I especially loved his little grin and his wink as he caught my eye, reminding me that there’s a lot more to these folks in the nursing homes and other facilities than what is sometimes on the surface. You just need to take a little time, a little interest, a little love to start finding the jewels.

There’s also the scene from just yesterday over at Skyline.  Earl, who is very hard of hearing and deals also with weakness of cognizance and memory, always sits right next to Denny so he can be as close as possible to the speakers – and because they get along great! Well, yesterday the activities director brought in a little guitar that Earl keeps in his room and within minutes, we had a little “hootenanny” going before the WSWK program.  Earl would kinda’ strum the guitar and sing snatches of old tunes – a verse here, a chorus there and sometimes a few lines from a story related to his past.  We applauded after every number (the residents too) and Earl was transported!

One especially funny moment was after Earl had sung three or four lines of “Honey, Baby, Mine.”  Denny said to him (well, he has to kinda’ yell at him), “Hey, I know that one.  I remember Andy Griffith singing that on his TV series.”  Earl smiled as he replied, “Well, I don’t know the man but I suppose he must have got the song from me.  I’m the feller what brought that song out!”

There’s more memories I could write down – again, just from the last few presentations.  For instance, there was our keen sense of loss in going over to Life Care Center, not only because of the memories of Denny’s Mom who passed away a year ago this month, but also because one of our biggest fans, Glen, had died a couple of weeks earlier.  But there was also the special joy we felt on a couple of occasions as family members of residents (who were old friends of ours) showed up.  And there were so many other precious moments: Dolores being so thrilled that we played the Tommy Dorsey/Frank Sinatra song in which her name is the title; visiting with our dear friend Betty who for years was part of a special book discussion series with Helen, Denny and me; Denny taking requests for future WSWK volumes from enthusiastic residents; the thrilled response a couple at Pacific Springs had to a Jan Garber poster which promoted an appearance at the Surf Ballroom because they had personally danced to his music at that very ballroom; and more.

“When Swing Was King” has become a very effective ministry for Vital Signs in so many ways but among them are the blessings God has given to us personally.  We are learning a lot.  We are being inspired.  We are continually being challenged, encouraged and delighted.  And, of course, these blessings are available to you too as you come join us…or as you get involved in your own visitation ministry to seniors.  The opportunity awaits.