Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Tennessee Waltz

My dad is out of the hospital now, and in another nursing home. My mom was not at all happy with the first one.

Now, he is in a memory care unit.

This one is a little jaunt from home, so the stay here will probably not be permanent. However, we are adjusting to the possibility that a nursing home will be my dad's permanent residence from now on.

He moved in on Friday evening. I saw him on Sunday afternoon, and he was in pretty good spirits. He could answer most of our questions, if we could get him to concentrate.

My mom relayed to me the story of his first encounter with his physical therapist. She asked him, "How do you feel?" He answered, "With my fingers."

She said in all her years, no one has ever given her that answer before.

I paid a visit this afternoon again. It turned out that my mom was visiting as well. My dad seemed quieter than on Sunday. I couldn't tell if he was just being thoughtful, or if he was down. He didn't talk to us as much. It was a cloudy day, though, and one of the aides remarked that it seemed that everyone was a little quieter than usual.

My dad's next-door neighbor is a retired United Church of Christ minister. He seems like the right company for my dad, and he has a good sense of humor about his memory loss. He told my mom that he used to work for a governor, but he couldn't remember which one. "But he must have been a Democrat," he said, "because I'm a Democrat!"

The big event this afternoon was a young woman with a guitar. She came in to sing some of the old songs with the residents, songs like "Ain't She Sweet?" and "Has Anybody Seen My Gal?" The guitar player also handed out rhythm instruments; my dad got one of those little egg instruments. He was singing half-heartedly on some of the songs; then she started to sing "When You're Smiling/When You're Smiling/The Whole World Smiles with You." That's always been my dad's trademark: he's always the one to tell us to accentuate the positive, to look on the bright side, to consider the glass half-full. He has had a joke or a pun for every occasion (though we heard some of the same ones several times).

It was good to see him smile and hear him sing that song.

Then they started singing one of my dad's favorite songs, The Tennesee Waltz. He told me once that it was popular around the time that he was in the Army, stationed in the South. The guitar player attributed it to Roy Rogers (turns out that it was written and recorded by Roy Acuff), but the version my mom and dad both remembered was recorded by Patti Page in 1951.

I remember the night and the Tennesee Waltz
Now I know just how much I have lost
Yes I lost my little darlin' the night they were playing
The Beautiful Tennesee Waltz


Barbara B. said...

I'm glad your dad is out of the hospital.

Singing those oldies seems like good 'therapy'.

Lindy said...

I am glad you got to hear your dad sing, and share some good times with him. Prayers for you all continue, Diane.

Ivy said...

We'll be praying. I spent a lot of time in CPE in memory support. Blessings and grace to you and your family.

Law+Gospel said...

Diane, my prayers for you and your family in this journey- "accentuate the positive" is not always easy to live out, but it sounds like there is grace in these moments. When I heard "Tennessee Waltz" it took me back- my father-in-law used to sing that song once he found out my mother went to Univ of Tennessee- I can still see him dancing around the kitchen, though he has been gone now for 16 years this month- what a wonderful memory you gave me this day!

Jennifer said...

Thank you for sharing these memories. They created a visceral response in me, for good.

Purple said...

Such a rich re-telling. Thank you.

Loved your dad's response to how he was feeling.

Presbyterian Gal said...

Glad your dad is out of the hospital.

Now you're making better memories, though sometimes bittersweet.


DogBlogger said...


CJWille said...

It is certainly a reflective journey you are on with your dad now. Thank you for having the courage to share it.

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

ooohhh... i hope the transitioning continues to waltz right along rather well for your dad. mom. and you too.

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

My good friend is in the ministry, sort of, as an AIM. She does 6 nursing home services each month. She was telling me all about this when I was complaining about the too liturgical/not warm was the Lutheran pastors were where my mom used to be. She said that a pastor who doesn't like to/won't/or gives short shift to the NH services and visit misses the blessings that can be received FROM the residents. And in particular, she mentioned the residents who sing.

So I hope your dad enjoys the music and gets a chance to sing.

We saw my mom in the NH today. She is all tired out. She had a bad episode this week, and is so tired.

Rev SS said...

(((o))) as you travel this leg of the journey with your parents.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Diane, prayers for your dad, your mom, and for you that you will find the right nursing home for your dad, a good one that's not so far away. I know how difficult this situation is for your whole family, and I will put you on my daily prayer list and continue to pray.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

This is a sweet post. I'm sending you prayers and good wishes for your dad and your family.