Bill stood at his small, round oak table moving stacks of papers from one location to another. Occasionally, he would stop, pick up a single sheet by its corners then lay it on a random pile. He referred to this activity as his, “work.” I knew the routine as, “Alzheimer’s.”
I watched from the doorway of his L- shaped Assisted Living room trying to decide how to dress him for the upcoming event.
“Hi dad,” I interrupted.
“Well, hello darling,” He replied, approaching me with a hug.
“Are you ready for your big night?” I asked.
“Big night? Am I going to have a big night?”
“You’re going to sing for your friends. Do you remember?”
“No, but I suppose I can do that. I like to sing.”
“I know you do. Maybe you could wear a sweater,” I suggested. “It’s as cold outside as your Air Force days in Greenland.”
He looked down, playing with his t-shirt; confused. I searched his closet for something without snags or balls.
“How about this nice blue one?” I asked, holding it up.
“I like my shirt,” He said, pinching it.
“The ladies will think you’re handsome in this one.” I said with enthusiasm.
“Yes sir, they sure will.”
I handed him the sweater. He walked over to his couch and put it down.
I walked over to the couch and picked it up.
“Hey dad, look at this beautiful sweater. You would look very nice in this.”
“Yes, you would.”
“Well, I guess I can wear it then.”
As I helped him dress, I noticed his once muscular arms had become thin. His face however, hadn't changed a lot. Now in his mid-seventies, he could easily pass for late fifties. In fact, people often commented on his young look. This presented some problems at the facility where he lived for he could charm himself right out the front door with well-meaning visitors. Today, I would be his escort.
“Well, it’s time for us to leave.” I said, helping him with his coat.
“It is?” Where are we going?”
“Someplace where you can sing.”
‘Yes, you are.”
“I like to sing.”
“Yes, you do.”
I buckled him into his seat belt, straightened his legs, rested his hands on his lap then closed the door.
“Where are we going?” he asked, nervous about leaving the one place he felt safe.
“I’m taking you to the Crystal Idol Contest. All your friends are going to be there. I think you will have a good time. I’ll bring you home in a little while.”
“Okay,” he said, wringing his hands.
Thirty minutes later I walked him into the Contest Room, taking our seats at center stage. He recognized his girlfriend. This seemed to relax him.
We waited as folks from the local news media arrived along with a woman who headed up the Department for Assisted Living in Michigan.
Sue, The Director of Fun, came on stage making introductions, kidded around a bit, then set the ball in motion for the talent to begin.
A father and son duo with matching vests sang, “A Bicycle Built for Two.” Three others sang various songs using sheet music. My dad was up next. He was one of the five finalist in the four week competition.
Sue invited him up on stage. I prompted him to go. He did the penguin walk to get there.
He took the microphone, paused, and then cleared his throat. With the talent of a professional Baritone, he began to sing, “God Bless America, land that I love,” by Irving Berlin. He didn't forget a word.
Tissues were pulled from purses as tears flowed freely. I felt so proud of my little dad.
As the judges went into another room to render their votes, a woman whispered to me that one of the ladies had just put her son on a plane headed for Afghanistan. She couldn't stop crying.
Sue returned, making the announcement that my dad had won the Crystal Idol Contest. He stood up. Everyone clapped. He nodded.
He sighed with relief upon returning home to his Assisted Living. As I prepared to leave he grabbed a picture frame which he handed to me. He said only two words, “Good man.” It was a picture of Jesus.
My dad was the first to introduce me to the Lord, and music. The day's end filled my heart like a favorite song.
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