Monday, March 07, 2011

Songs to Sing When I’m Living In A Nursing Home

In the shadow of a calling I found myself . . .

Feeling old school and loving the walk down memory lane.

Musical Moment
~ “Sign of the Cross” Iron Maiden

I have been contemplating this topic since last New Year’s Eve when I spent the evening with my husband, his parents and grandmother.

How times have changed. Back in the day, when I was single and living large (or so I thought) I would have been out somewhere in Florida wearing something tight, bright and sexy, flinging back my drink of choice in a place loud with music, bright pulsing lights, crowded with hot dancing bodies and I definitely would have been wobbling on my high heals. This past New Year’s Eve, I was wearing something comfortable and warm with low healed boots, a thick woolen scarf and even thicker socks. I was drinking a coke, very steady on my feet and the most interesting thing about the evening was that we spent it in the dining hall of my grandmother-in-law’s assisted living center listening to a youthful 67-year-old man at a piano playing the music of the resident’s youth and I had an absolute blast.

On a guess, I would say the average age in the room was 82. There is something intriguing about sitting amongst the elderly and watching them interact with one other or sing and dance as if the years have slipped away. I saw a love triangle with two 80-something year old women and a 77 year old man. The women obviously felt he was “their” boyfriend (since there are so few men in residence) and bickered about it while the rest of the crowd hushed them. There were the cliques of old gals who hung together and waited for the approval or disapproval from their very white haired, pinched mouth leader. They watched the bickering triangle with obvious disapproval and, dare I say, envy. Some of the men pretended to be asleep or turned their hearing aids down if the woman they were sitting next to was too chatty.

A few people got up and danced, which was sweet and energizing, although I saw some wheezing afterward. (They were okay, a little rest and a spot of decaffeinated tea was all they needed.) There was even a woman who loved to sing but, lord love her, could not hold a note to save our eardrums. She moaned out the tune to each song. I thought how wonderfully tolerant the rest of the group were. If it had been people my age, I’m sure someone would have raged out on her and a brawl would have broken out.

The best part, the very best part, was the music. Strangely enough I knew many of the songs the pianist/singer played. I grew up watching classic movies and as many of the songs were show tunes I was able to sing along. We sang songs like:

Bye-Bye Birdie
Happy Trails
Cuchi Cuchi Coo (or something with this in the chorus)
Put on a Happy Face
Love and Marriage
Blue Skies
Danny Boy
Don’t Be Cruel (The most “radical” song of the night)

While I was sitting surrounded by my elderly companions, watching people who were once lively and active, I started thinking about what life will be like when I’m 80 or 90 years old (if I’m blessed or cursed to live that long). I realized I will be sitting around tatted up men and women with long, complex stories about their lives. Some will have children and grandchildren, some won’t. Some will be former drug and alcohol addicts while others will be former workaholics. Most will be some type of “-aholic”. Some will be in denial about their lives, some happy about the paths they walked and others will be out of their minds on whatever meds they are given to ease their aches, pains and loneliness, but . . .

We will have our music!

Or . . .

Will we have our music?

Picture it: The year is 2056. Computers are now our thoughts. Televisions float in the air and change channels by blinking our left eye twice. Calories have been banned and chocolate and fried food are on the USDA’s food pyramid chart. Tattoos, those forever stamps of our passages, will be our memories, but we still have our music. The musician (will he play on a synthesizer a la Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran? I can only hope) will have bushy gray hair down to his buttocks, but a bald spot on top that he hides under a red and black skull and bones bandana. He will wear tight leather pants, have yellow stained teeth and fingertips and a vintage Metallica shirt stretched tight across his once tight belly. With him is a back up singer with a butterfly tattoo on her neck, a heart on her belly, a stamp of an angel on her spine and she will look like a wrecked 87 year old, but will only be 69. Her old plastic surgery, done when she was 19, will have her breasts up high and perky but her belly with its old diamond stud she can no longer detach, hanging to her knees and they will be playing our favorite songs of the 80s, 90s and early 2000s like:

Rock The Casbah - The Clash
To kick start our hearts.

Throw that D - Two Live Crew
“Listen up yall cause this is it, forget that old dance and . . .” throw out that hip. “ Yeah, the new lyrics or maybe they’ll ban this song in case some of us forget ourselves and “. . . just jump in the air/and when you land you’ll mind like you just don't care/it's all in the hips, so go berserk.” Who needs those kind of hospital bills or maybe our medicine will be socialized by then?

Seven Nation Army - White Strips
Who’s playing air guitar or should I ask, who’s not? Arthritis is a bitch and no Arthritis is not the woman sitting in the corner drooling.

One Week - Barenaked Ladies
“I'm the kind of guy who laughs at a funeral/Can't understand what I mean?/Well, you soon will/I have a tendency to wear my mind on my sleeve/I have a history of taking off my shirt.”Unfortunately, there is the “who’s gonna go next” game that will inevitably be played and even though I have never seen anyone take off their shirt at a funeral or a wake, I will not be surprised by someone of my so-called Generation X doing this.

Gin and Juice - Snoop Dogg
Even though we’ll tell our families we’re drinking decaffeinated tea, the truth is Snoop Dog will be the bartender and his sidekick will have . . .

The Chronic - Dr. Dre
I heartily believe there will be a few earthy rebels who will sneak in the bathroom during one of these songs. You remember those “independent thinkers” who skipped class and found the farthest bathroom in the school to sneak a smoke and trust me it did not . . .

Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana
This is the staple song of my generation and will be the song at all elderly events and will represent the rebels in our old beating hearts.

The Thong Song - Sisqo
Do you think one of us will forget we’re in elder housing, confuse it with Mardi Gras and flash their flabby filtered bottoms? Yup, I went there.

Milkshake - Kelis
This one simply scares the future me, but if you’re interested or bold enough to know what this song is about, I suggest you listen to it and don’t be mad at all the visuals you get. Yes, I am that evil.

Get UR Freak On - Missy Elliott
Holla! Cough, cough, sputter, cough. Who’s stepping on the oxygen tank? Who? Who?

Closer - Nine Inch Nails
Cause we lived in a dirty, dirty time.

Does He Love You - Reba McIntyre & Linda Davis
Sometimes life regresses as we get older and we return to the high schoolers we used to be.

Just Don’t Give a F*** - Eminem
Once you hit seventy this is the line to live by much to your families chagrin. Have you ever noticed once our elders stop holding back and biting their tongues they get happier and everyone else begins bleeding from their mouths?

War Pigs/Luke’s Wall - Black Sabbath
Will our conspiracy theorists please stand up?

Pour Some Sugar On Me
Need I say more?

Bring Me To Life - Evanescence
Just think of all the warbling voices trying to hit those high notes.

Run to the Hills - Iron Maiden
This is what old folks really want to do. Today’s elderly folks would like nothing more than to run naked in the woods with love beads, long hair, tie-dyed-something and screaming about the power of flowers. My generation will wear jelly bracelets, chew bubble gum (if they have teeth), wear Jordache or Gloria Vanderbilt jeans and mindlessly hum the Smurf theme song and wonder about the “real” relationship between Papa Smurf and Smurfette.

Relax - Frankie Goes to Hollywood
This is the song to end our evening and send us to our sweetest dreams.

This is what we have to look forward to gang. What do you think? Do you think our families, future nursing homes and assisted living facilities will let us return to the time in our lives when music became rich and the storytelling aspect turned relatable, questioning and stellar or do you think they will continue playing the earlier generations music to keep us calm?

How many of you would like to listen to Doris Day, Bing Crosby or Louis Armstrong when we reach Medicare age and beyond? Can you live without Lady Gaga, 30 Seconds to Mars, U2, Beyonce or Lady Antebellum? Can you imagine shaking your rump shakers to Cee Lo Green or Rihanna or rocking out to Linkin Park, Aerosmith, Trapt or Depeche Mode when you’ve given up on the hair color and the lines on your face are the road maps of where you’ve been and how you’ve lived?

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