“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” (Albert Einstein)
“I’m so happy with this. I love playing this music and everybody likes hearing it. I don’t know who’s happier, them or me.” (Gerard Winters)
My brother, Gerard, (family calls him Rod), lives in Plainview, NY’s Somerset Gardens’ assisted living. He’s been there for eight years and likes it. But, he sometimes gets the blues. Sometimes they shade toward charcoal blues.
Rod does enjoy TV and has a keen interest in exploring science, from quantum physics to the cosmos. He relishes reports on black holes. But some days even that wonder doesn’t do it for him.
He wasn’t into daily music, but I convinced him to try listening to Apple Music through ear buds. I said, “Rod, just relax and be with whatever music makes you happy” It did make him happy, but ahead was—ignition.
(FYI, For fifteen bucks a month you can share Apple Music with five other family members)
One day, as Rod removed his ear buds to leave his dining table for his room, a lady from a nearby table passed and said, “Thank you so much for that beautiful music.” Rod was surprised that she could hear his ear-bud music. It turned out that as he was playing his music to his ear buds, it was also playing aloud from his iPad. Other residents appreciated his “escaping” music too.
My brother is very creative, and always tries to help others with his ideas. That has always made him happy. So, when that lady thanked him, it lit the fuel.
The usual piped-in music of the dining room happened to be down for maintenance. He was there to help. Rod felt the usual music, though pleasant, lacked many songs and artists the residents would like.
So at dinner time, Rod showed up with his iPhone and his Bose mini speaker to play to the diners. It was a big hit.
And Rod took requests!
From those requests, he crafted a playlist from iTunes for this select group.
Rod loved the silk purity of Doris Day, and shared it with his fellow diners. They loved it too.
“Que Sera, What Ever Will Be,” by Doris Day is in this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqwIifgs7KU
Soon, Rod was fielding requests for Perry Como, Elvis Presley, Benny Goodman. The residents got those artists and their favorite songs from them too. Diners smiled and reminisced about what the music evoked.
Refreshed purpose surged in Rod.
Residents looked forward to his appearance at lunch and dinner, and Rod looked forward to these gigs. Some diners swung their arms to the rhythm of the music, a few “danced” in their seats. Sometimes the servers gave him a thumbs up as they passed his table in rhythm to the sounds.
Rod felt some music requests weren’t cool for the setting. He thought some were too raucous, others had instruments drowning out the lyrics. So, instead of specific requests, he crafted a playlist based on the crowd’s preferences.
He searched iTunes for oldies, even going back to the twenties and thirties. The playlist is now over three hundred songs. He spends a lot of time editing the list. Rod sent me this link he found, among others, that he’d like to share with you:https://tinyurl.com/mr3a62bh
Rod told me, “Lee, I’m so happy with this. I love playing this music and everybody likes hearing it. I don’t know who’s happier, them or me.”
Music plays an important part in the lives of elders. A Harvard study said: “Listening to and performing music reactivates areas of the brain associated with memory, reasoning, speech, emotion, and reward”:https://tinyurl.com/4ezukv5u
Music finds the path from the past for a reward in the present. I’d like to call it music’s sentimental journey, the path from the past that evokes tender memories in the present.
Now, those who regularly read my essays know I’m a man of presence, the past doesn’t exist, nor the future. Only the present—is.
But I also know that hearing tunes like Rock Around the Clock or Earth Angel, takes me back to denims, a D A haircut and a pack of Luckies in the sleeve of my Tee shirt. Music lifts me from my chair to the scent of ocean air, and sun tan lotion, to Rockaways’ Playland—and the babes on the boardwalk.
So, the past is a sweet place to visit—sometimes.
At one point Rod’s Bose had to be returned for an exchange and Barbara Smith, the Social Director, provided her personal Bose as a temporary replacement. Rod asked her if she’d like him to play for the residents at night. She loved the idea and suggested Saturday nights in their parlor, from seven to eight thirty.
Rod was thrilled, but a bit apprehensive; he never performed like this. Barbara suggested he consider stopping after an hour if it was too much for him. She produced flyers announcing Rod’s gigs:
Now, some assisted living residents forget about parlor appearances, some oversleep a nap, some say they never got the word, or don’t think they did.
The attending groups were relatively small but ardent music lovers. The first Saturday night Rod stuck with the group for the whole hour and a half. The last two Saturday nights, they kept him for a half hour “overtime,”—two full hours. Rod had to halt the music at nine. Many wanted him to continue, they loved his music. Some started calling him, “Music man.”
Meanwhile, Rod continues his lunch and dinner tunes seven days a week. The support he gets from Somerset staff enhances his upbeat mood. But, he tells me, it’s the direct appreciation he feels from his fellow residents that moves him the most.
He said, “One guy was a Marine and a New York City cop, just like you, Lee, and he really loves my music. The guy said, ‘Each song you play reminds me of different times in my life.'” Rod said, “When he said it, I saw tears in his eyes.”
Rod said another man, particularly, liked the Irish music he played. He said, “The guy comes over to the speaker and dances a bit to the tunes.”
But what’s remarkable to Rod, is that the man sings along and knows all the lyrics from beginning to end. Rod said, “He shakes my hand and says how beautiful it is and he can’t thank me enough.” Rod said, “That makes me feel so good. I think I like what my music does for them, more than I like the music. I’m on cloud nine.”
Actually, I think—Rod’s achieved orbit.
He said, “Lee, I think what’s making me so happy is that I’ve found a new purpose in life.” He’s working on a plan to bring new purpose to his fellow resident’s, too. Stay tuned.
Yes, “We rise by lifting others.” (Robert Ingersoll)
Sentimental Journey, Doris Day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUw125JMVFI
WOW, WHAT A NICE, UPLIFTING STORY ABOUT YOUR BROTHER. I REALLY ENJOYED IT. HE AND ALL THE OTHER RESIDENTS SEEM VERY HAPPY. GRACE
Thanks for your comments. Yes, my faves are the fifties, but I can find good music in, “almost” any age of music. I’ll pass on your good thoughts. Thanks again,
Great story about Rod. I agree 100% that playing/listening to music in therapeutic. I don’t know I would listen to in the car within SiriusXM. The only 2 channels I tune in are the 50s and 60s. All the best Rod and all of old timers. Bob Davan, TPD-NYPD, 1971-2001
Yes, his smile does speak volumes. I’m so glad he was able to put a smile on others too. Often, it’s the little things we do for each other that make a great difference. Thanks for the kind words, Jack.
Lee—the smile on Rod’s face tells the story more than words ever could…but your essay puts it all in prospective. A lovely tribute.
Yes, Rod’s found his voice through acts of caring and giving. It impacts those near him and maybe those who just read my humble post about his kindness.
Some of my readers might consider a like action with their families and friends who are alone. Or maybe even volunteer at a hospital or long-term care facility and bring music to brighten their days.
The music is a balm to their anxieties, but the act of someone caring enough to share makes it even more powerful.
Rod believes that starting with soft music, then proceeding to a bit faster tempo works best. By the time he gets to the livelier music, the folks are dancing in their seats.
Thanks for the kind words.
GREAT story, Lee – Gerald has really “found his voice” through the music. He’s brought so much joy to the other residents- jogging their dog d memories – and he’s become a celebrity in the process!
This is similar to what our buddy Kurtis Scott is doing on the Boardwalk – playing tunes on his guitar & CD boom box – entertaining everybody in earshot!
Thank you for your kind words. My pleasure to share my brother’s kindness with you and others.
Yes, too often people don’t realize the power they have to help themselves
feel joy by just providing it to another. Thank you for your comment.
Lee this is a wonderful story about your brother Rod! I am so happy that he is sharing his passion of music with his fellow assistant living members! It makes his day but it also makes their day! God bless him! Thank you for sharing Lee!
What an uplifting and so useful post for people who need joy or a purpose. We all need a reason to get up in the morning when life is perceived as hard.