I spend part of Friday morning in the dementia unit at a local assisted living center.
(Some mornings getting the kids off to school—barely— I wonder if I belong there.)
This past Friday Tom was there as usual, motionless and catatonic, staring somewhere into space. It is rare that he responds to questions now. If he does, the response comes back from that far away place in some unidentifiable babble.
This past Friday I was there when Tom’s girlfriend of thirteen years dropped by. Tom would be in for a treat, I was told.
So would I.
She swept into the room with a breezy smile that lit up that space, with one quick motion slipping a CD into the boombox on the table next to me, then with focus, moving over to Tom.
His face lit up with joyful recognition.
“I’ve been practicing, Tom!,” she enunciated loudly for him, her focus on him tuning out everyone else in the room. This was their moment, even if it would be shared with the rest of the staff.
The music began, the voice of Luciano Pavarotti singing a love song.
It was “La Boheme,” I was told.
Her gaze still focused entirely on Tom, Mary now began to dance. A mixture of ballroom and ballet. And then she was encouraging Tom to sing.
And instantly, Tom was belting out the words of the song, his arms raised towards Mary as if ready to embrace her, all the while his eyes falling mesmerized on this woman. When every so often he began to drift back to that distant shore, she would clap her hands and say his name, calling him back from his reverie: “Tom!”
He would return again to dance from his chair—arms raised as if in praise, face transfixed—with the woman who calls him out of himself. When the song ended, she was in his lap holding him.
Every so often I’ll be leaving a “grace sighting” by way of gearing up for the release of my book “Grace Sticks” (Cascade, Winter 2014). Please feel free to send on your grace sightings to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave them below.
Here are Pavarotti and Fiamma Izzo d’ Amicon in “La Boheme”: