Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Morning Thanks--Fellowship Singers
I'm not at all sure what he was picking up yesterday on his guided tour of the new comprehensive care facility that will likely be his abode quite soon, and his last one. The land he worked as a farmer for all those years will always be home in this world, but by the end of the week in all likelihood he'll have a new residence, this one smaller than the last.
It's not a change he's giddy about, but then being giddy about anything is tough when you're 97 years old.
But I was taken. The place has a dog and three cats--almost worth the price of admission all by themselves. Like all residents of the place, he'll get a measure of TLC beyond anything he knows. "My hearing aid isn't working," he'll call these days to tell his only daughter. By the time she gets there, it's working and he's almost forgotten.
No more. He'll now have a hostess at his beck-and-call. If he wants a malt at three in the afternoon or a beer at seven, she'll get it. I'm not sure he'll ever exercise such opportunities. He's steeply "depression-era," and he doesn't want someone to have to go out of the way for him. You know.
I think this new place is grand. Still, as he admitted to the director, he doesn't have a choice. It's time.
The tour was an hour long, led by an administrator who did her darnedest to sell him. But I don't know what went in--except cost, and about that he was flummoxed; but he is, after all, depression-era.
So when it was over we sat for twenty minutes at a little outdoor eatery near the front door, a place where you can grab a tray of popcorn and a glass of lemonade or half-cup of coffee. The three of us sat and looked around and not at each other because getting flummoxed isn't hard for him anymore. Happens a lot. His world is very small, and every molehill is a mountain--he says it himself. He knows he's on a road to a place we all go eventually, but it's just taking far more time for him to get there. Simply stated--pets and hostesses and chocolate malts aside, if he had a choice he'd rather be gone.
A crowd of residents started to form around us from a parade of wheelchairs and walkers massing towards the door of the little concert hall/church (if you open the sliding doors, stained glass and a pulpit appear). The afternoon's activity was the Fellowship Singers, a half hour of hymns so old no self-respecting church would touch them anymore.
When one of the singers came by, I stopped him. I had no idea he was part of the entertainment until I saw the hymnbook. "Sing with us!" he said, fanning through the pages. "We sing ten hymns, one after another." He pointed at the open page. "Next month, the next ten."
"I can't," I told him. "I didn't practice."
"Neither did we," he says. "Come on."
I had to giggle.
We talked Dad into staying, which wasn't easy. He hasn't been to church much as of late--it's too hard to get in-and-out. If he hears the sermon at all, I'm not sure he gets it; and the music isn't what plays in a memory that's probably more active than his consciousness.
So we wheeled him in to a room so crowded the blessed hostess had to scramble for chairs--SRO almost, although a goodly portion of the crowd were wheeled in and thus brought their own.
There the Fellowship Singers stood, up front, about a dozen grandpas themselves, singing their hearts out through a whole gaggle of the museum-quality hymns people like my father-in-law grew up with, once--and now again--the very language of their worship.
I've been to gorgeous concerts in the last few years--international artists of stunning virtuosity, concerts in which my own granddaughter sang with choirs that had me holding back tears. I sat in sheer awe at a concert by Cantus, maybe the best vocal ensemble in America. But those Fellowship Singers--yesterday they were a blessing like none other.
I don't know how they played in my father-in-law's mind just then. Chances are, what he heard barely made it over the confusion running through the empty corridors of his consciousness. But what he heard was language and melody utterly familiar.
I don't mind saying that the moment was its own kind of revelation to me because I couldn't help but witness a transaction one rarely sees in life: ordinary people being an abundant blessing in such a charmingly simple way.
The sheer delight of grace is its almost comedic surprise, as it was yesterday at a place I hope my father-in-law will soon learn to think of as his on his trip home. This morning I'm thankful for a bunch of saints, the old guys with the hymnals up front.