January 29, 2009 cap
On Tuesday we loaded our mom into the van and took her on her daily outing. Sometimes we go to Bukoos or the 5 Hour Store. Sometimes we’ll go see the birds at the Bird Refuge in Farmington Bay. Sometimes its just a ride to a nearby canyon. Twice a month our outing includes a Heart and Soul gig. Mom and Lib will visit in the car and wait for me, 45 minutes or so, while I am singing to a group of people who cannot get out to enjoy live music. Janna, the angel behind Heart and Soul, calendars a number of musicians from the Salt Lake area to visit nursing homes and care centers, mental units and schools for the disabled. It's a good thing.
Tuesday I was at a Senior Assisted Living Center in the Fort Union Area. After years of visiting a different Senior Care center twice a month I can testify to the diversity of care facilities on the Wasatch Front. Some places are just lovely, with clean floors and fresh paint or wallpaper and a hair salon and library and employees of the month in nice wooden frames posted in the lobby. Some are more humble. Old renovated houses with a living room lined with a variety of plush recliners, like the furniture section of DI. I evaluate immediately the pleasure quotient in my singing experience when I enter a building and take a whiff. Of all the factors that would change the way I feel about a place for people to live, smell would top the list. Old and clean and friendly can work for me. So can new and clean and friendly. But old or new, if it doesn’t smell clean and it isn’t friendly, I have to pull out my “I Am a Good Christian” card and put it in front of my nose to get through the gig. I tell myself that these people probably did not pick this place, someone picked it for them, and they should be entitled to the same music everyone else enjoys. When they’ve left me in a room alone with 35 Alzheimers patients and not one staff person, I say to myself “There, but for the Grace of God, go I, and wouldn’t I enjoy hearing some sweet music even if I didn’t understand the lyric?”
Tuesday’s gig was at Canyon Creek Senior Care; new- clean- friendly. One of the top-of-the-list places where if I had to arrange for someone I love this might be it. They had a beautiful dining room with cloth napkins and menus on the tables, with a bank of large windows looking out over evergreens loaded with the fresh snow of Monday’s storm. I could smell dinner cooking in the kitchen and thought maybe I should stay the afternoon. There were around 20 people seated at various tables, all fairly astute and well groomed but painfully quiet. “Hello!” I said, in my loud assisted living voice, trying to stir up some energy in the room. They smiled, and one gentleman asked how I was doing. It took all the way through Old Singer Sewing Machine and How Great Thou Art to get to the place where their eyes met mine. Just before Pontiac Rocket, a short, slight fellow with a nicely shaped beard and a U of U Baseball cap came into the room. He sat facing me straight on, nodding with each phrase as if he were testifying. “Indeed, that is what we had in our grocery bag, too!” And, “Oh yes, I remember those days before radar guns.” He sat there, his white and red baseball cap bobbing forward and back as if we were in deep conversation, only I was doing the talking and he was doing the listening. Every audience needs a Mr U of U Baseball Cap; someone who confirms the best in us and encourages us to give more; someone who hears exactly what we mean to say and shows us he hears; a hoot and a cheer in silence, saying “yer doin’ good dear, keep a goin’!” I fell in love with this man in three and one half minutes of time. Funny how easy it is to love people who love us first. Funny how that goes.
After the songs were done and my guitar was snug in its soft gig bag; after I had shaken the hands of the fellow by the window and the lady in front of him, and the line of ladies over by the piano, I made my way to the U of U Ball Cap.
“You are baseball fan?” I asked.
“Don’t know the first thing about it,” he replied with a smile then a giggle. ”Just liked the cap!” He took my hand in his and held it for just the exact right amount of time. Like he was giving a blessing without oil.
As I walked out, leaning to the side to balance the gig bag slung over my shoulder, I formed the words of a silent prayer for the ball cap gentleman. That University of Utah baseball team would be awfully lucky to have him in their stands.
(Heart & Soul Website: http://www.heartsoul.org/)