Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Power of Music

I find it interesting that my sister wrote a post on her blog with the exact same title I had planned for mine.  But like she said, there can be more than one post in the world with the same title.

I had talked in this post about how Mom and I had been playing a game of Trivial Pursuit.  One of the other questions was "What airplane did Shirley Temple sing about in the 1934 film, Bright Eyes?"

The answer was "the Good Ship Lollipop."  Mom has always been a big fan of Shirley Temple.  She loves so many of her movies and pre-dementia, she would have had no problem answering this question.  But this evening she did not know the answer.

I decided to give her a hint and started humming the song.  I could see Mom's eyes register recognition and she even mustered a few lyrics from the song and finally was able to come up with the title.

It reminded how powerful of a tool music can be in assisting the memory.  Sometimes music can reach a person in a way that other means are unable to do.  I started singing a song to Mom recently (I can't even remember which one), but she knew all the lyrics started singing them herself, so I let her finish unaided.  And yet, she no longer remembers the name of the city where she has lived for nearly 52 years or how her own mother died.  I find that fascinating.

My younger sister grew up with a developmental disability that made it hard for her to retain information.  My mom would spend hours and hours with her helping her study, and one of the methods she used that helped my sister greatly was creating songs to help her remember stuff, and that seemed to help a lot.

I remember a physiology class I took in college.  I remember very little of what I learned in it, but I do remember that the word coalesce means "to come together" because my friend and I used the Beatles' song, "Come Together" as a mnemonic device to help us remember the definition.

The song "Our House" by Madness always makes me think of waking up in my brother's bedroom, which I was sleeping in while he served a mission, because I had fallen asleep with the radio on, and that song was playing when I woke up.  I was walking through a market in Belgium with my missionary companion the first time I ever heard Whitney Houston's version of "I Will Always Love You."  Those are just a couple of examples of music being tied to very specific memories.

I think music transcends verbal communication and can speak to our hearts and minds on a whole different level.  I remember watching a ballet and hearing the music and being brought to tears for no reason than that the beauty of the music spoke to me in such an emotional way.  Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings" always makes me cry even though I associate no particular sad thought with it.  It is just a powerfully sad piece of music.  Likewise, ABBA's "Dancing Queen" always makes me feel so happy.

I may have said it in this blog before, but if I had to choose between going blind or deaf, I would choose blindness.  I could get along without seeing, but I would find it very difficult to get by without music.

When researching different memory care units for my mom, one of them sent me power point presentation which included a fascinating video on reaching Alzheimer patients through nontraditional means.  I find this video absolutely stunning and amazing:

It's really amazing what music can do.

I like this one, too:

As I was driving the big rental truck with some of Mom's stuff in it back home, I was listening to the only CDS I had which were a bunch of Barry Manilow compilations given to me by my brother-in-law.  Some of Barry's songs seemed more poignant and sad to me given Mom's current situation.

One song I like of Barry's is called "When October Goes."  The music is by Barry Manilow set to some old lyrics by Johnny Mercer, one of the great songwriters.  It's a sad tune.  I don't know Mercer's original intent, but as I really listened to the lyrics, it seemed to me to be about getting older; of one season ending and another beginning.  It seems October represents a season before it gets cold and everything starts to die.  It just made me think of my mom and how the youthful season of her life has ended and the season that leads to death, whether slowly or quickly, is upon her.  And it made me think of how hard is sometimes is to "let October go." 

Maybe that's not what the intent of the song originally was, but that's what it means to me.  Here are the lyrics:

And when October goes
The snow begins to fly
Above the smokey roofs
I watch the planes go by
The children running home
Beneath a twilight sky
Oh, for the fun of them
When I was one of them

And when October goes
The same old dream appears
And you are in my arms
To share the happy years
I turn my head away
To hide the helpless tears
Oh how I hate to see October go

And when October goes
The same old dream appears
And you are in my arms
To share the happy years
I turn my head away
To hide the helpless tears
Oh how I hate to see October go
I should be over it now I know
It doesn't matter much
How old I grow
I hate to see October go

It's hard to let your loved ones go into that season, wanting to help them, but feeling helpless at times.  I was a sobbing mess as I listened to it, knowing that things will never, never be the same for my mom again...or for us either.
A family friend who is advising us on some legal matters that may potentially save some of Mom's assets wrote the following to me:
 "Here my thoughts.

"First, accept that things are happening that you can't change, and then ONLY stress about deciding on the things you have power over.

-Your mom needs to be in a care facility
-She won't respond like she did before, ever
-Your role, and that of your siblings has changed from your mother's children, to your Mom's caregivers. She's totally dependant on whatever you do, and nothing will come "back to you" from her as the parent she once was.
-Plan on getting NO inheritance so long as she is in the care facility (this info you are sending me seems like an amazing exception to this)

"What you have power over
-The facility she will be in
-How much time you will spend visiting her - even though she probably won't remember your visits or even you
-Can you save some of her money as an inheritance and STILL provide for her fully? This option from Callister seems excellent. I know this firm by reputation and trust them. Even if it costs you a bit, its all money you would never get. I say do it.
-Acceptance of your Mom's condition and that she will soon, if not already, forget who you are.

"These are difficult times for you. I love your Mom. She's special to me both as a person and as an old Cub Scout Den mother. I know what you are losing. Just know that this is the time of life you are in, as is she. My mom is also starting to decline and lose her memory.

"Hang in there. All the good parts of you have a lot to do with her gifts to you over the years."

I appreciated his thoughts and words of counsel.  You could tell he was sending them as a concerned friend and not just a lawyer.  And his words help put things in perspective.
Mom still wants to leave.  Probably will for a long time.  I hope she can adapt and find happiness with where she is.  It's a challenging road we walk these days.  10 years ago I never would have fathomed we'd be where we are today.

1 comment:

LCannon said...

This Barry Mannilow video is the exact video I posted November 1. I find it interesting that the first commenter (youtube video) wrote the following: "
The lyrics were from a poem by Johnny Mercer. Mercer's wife found them while cleaning out his things, following his death. She had a sudden inspiration to give the poem to Barry Manilow. He said it took him all of 15 minutes to write the tune.
"Manilow believes there was a spiritual underlying this song. In any event, it is a beauty from one of the greatest jazz albums of the 1980s"