Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Different Kind of Memory Day

A request went out a few weeks ago for a video for the upcoming March 7 Memory Day. I started out this morning to make a video for it, but ran into a snag right away.

I wanted to use photos and the music from the video I have of Jim and his brother, Bill, singing “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” Of course, I had no idea how to make a new video with the music from the other one. Harold decided to help, but it wasn’t long before we discovered my program did not have the option to separate sound from the video, but Harold’s did.

Anyway, by the time we got to rolling on the project, we were working on Harold’s pc and he had a limited amount of photos to use. To make a long story shorter, the project took a new turn and instead of being a video of Memory Day, it became a memory day as we selected photos to add to the project.

We organized the photos to begin with the ones of Jim in Vietnam, followed by the one of Jim and me in Hawaii. Of course, we had to have Jim with his guitar. I loved that we had the photo my mom took of Jim on the beach in Oregon. That is one of the photos on the cover of Alzheimer’s Anthology of Unconditional Love.

One of the important things to me was to have the photo of Whitney when Jim began to sing about “silver girl.” This photo was taken of Whitney’s performance during the Miss Pettis County contest. She said that she felt her Grandpa Jim’s presence with her while she played her ukulele and sang an Elvis song.

The video ends with some photos at the Veteran’s Cemetery in Higginsville. The inscription on Jim’s stone says “Rest High on That Mountain.” We scattered some of Jim’s ashes in a spot he designated in his beloved Rocky Mountains. The photo we chose was one of Jim’s favorite spots in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Like Whitney, sometimes I feel Jim’s presence. It makes my heart happy to watch the old videos and to hear his voice. Jim spent a lot of time treading troubled waters during his lifetime. Vietnam changed his life when he was young and dementia struck when he should have had many more years for his dreams to come true. All he really dreamed of was spending time with family and traveling across country to visit the mountains and commune with nature. He used to talk to the crows in Moraine Park, but now he flies with the eagles.

So today was an early “memory day” for me. The video is different from what it started out to be, but it turned out exactly as it should have. 

Copyright © February 2018 by L.S. Fisher


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Music Therapy

I saw a video that showed a young girl playing a guitar and singing “You Are My Sunshine” to her baby brother who has Down syndrome. Through music, he now has a twelve-word vocabulary. According to his mother, “Every word he has learned has been through music and singing.”

Music has always been a big part of my life. My mom came from a musical family and Saturdays were often spent at Grandma and Grandpa’s house for impromptu picking and grinning. I guess I thought everyone was raised like that.

Then, I married Jim and it was more of the same. He often invited all his guitar-picking, honky-tonk singing friends to our house for jam sessions. If we weren’t at our house, we were at his mom and dad’s or uncles. We seldom traveled without Jim’s guitar. His family was like my family.

None of us had much in the way of worldly possessions, but there’s a richness born from hearing a heartfelt song. Some of the best stories are told in the words of a three-chord country song.

Music can lift your spirit, give you a way to express your innermost worries or thoughts, and warm your heart. Music is therapy.

My family—91 year old mother, brothers, sister, sister-in-law, and niece—has a band that plays at area nursing homes one week each month. The residents really enjoy the old songs and look forward to the music fest on the appointed day. My brother Jimmy selects the songs each month to make sure the ones they choose are the songs the residents appreciate hearing. The songs my family sings strike a chord in the hearts and minds of their audience.

John Carpenter, founder of the Rebecca Center for Music Therapy in New York believes that live music “empowers clients to emerge from the isolation imposed by Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.” He believes that listening to music helps with memory recall, positive moods, helps manage pain, and helps people with dementia interact socially with others.

Jim played his guitar every day, even during the early days of dementia. He learned to play the mandolin at an early age so he had that long-term memory to help him maintain his musical talent long after he had forgotten other skills. The time eventually came when he played the same tune repeatedly and he forgot the words to songs he had known for years.

He still listened to music. He had a Walkman with headphones that he carried with him everywhere. He listened to the songs he used to play and sing. He still tapped his foot and kept time, but he didn’t sing along. He listened in occupied silence.

Jim’s mom said he cut his teeth on his dad’s guitar. He came into this world to be surrounded by music. A big part of his life was music. He left this world to the sounds of his favorite tunes. Music was his therapy.

Copyright © February 2018 by L.S. Fisher


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Ice is for Buckets

“I hate ice,” I told a friend this morning. I guess that isn’t exactly true...  I like ice in my tea and other cold drinks. I like an bucket of ice when I’m staying in a hotel room. What I should have said is, “I hate to walk or drive on ice.”

Over the past few days, ice on the highways led to multi-car/truck pileups, cars abandoned on roads, and slide-offs into ditches. Short drives turned into nightmarish hours-long journeys.. Last night, ice-covered I-70 was closed down in several places due to accidents and people waited in traffic jams for hours.

In other words, it’s time for retired folks like me to not take a chance on an accident. I always say that at my age, if I break a hip, they will put me down.

Ice has never been my friend. Several years back I fell on the ice and smacked the back of my head. “I broke my head,” I told my sister-in-law when I made it to her door. I have never had such pain in my head before or since.

I’ve always been petrified to drive on ice. Jim was always protective of me, and when bad weather struck while I was away from home, he would call to find out if I wanted him to come and get me.

When Jim was in the early stages of dementia, I trusted him to drive me to work on icy days. After slipping and sliding my way to the car, I’d hand him the keys.

In time, the progression of the disease made Jim turn inward, and he no longer noticed bad weather or worried about how I was going to drive on ice. This forced me to become more independent about driving during inclement weather.

I learned to navigate icy roads to go to work. Some mornings, just as I was about to feel halfway comfortable, I’d round the corner, getting ready to head down the hill, and I’d see cars in the median, in the ditch, and flashing lights of highway patrol and tow trucks.

Now, I can just cancel most appointments and avoid the roads…and ditches. I can spend the day being cozy and warm and not taking any chances on breaking my head.

Copyright © February 2018 by L.S. Fisher