My most recent one of these happened recently at the Denver Veterans Hospital where I was playing my guitar and trying to bring a little musical joy to the Vets over there. As best as I can recall, it goes something like this;
My usual routine is to park my body at the nurse’s station at 9:00am and play a few tunes to warm up before heading down the hallway to the patient’s rooms. The head nurse sits me right beside her because she says she likes to hear me play but I think she does it so that I won’t get run over by all the traffic in the hallway!
This week, as I’m sitting there noodling along, a fellow rolls up to me in a wheelchair. He’s kind of rough cut with one leg amputated at the knee and the other at the ankle. He’s wearing a truck driver hat that says “Gilley’s,” and when he smiled, some of his teeth were missing. I distinctly remember thinking how this fellow reminded me of Cap’n Dan from the movie “Forrest Gump” and then realizing, “If he’s Cap’n Dan, then that would make me Forrest wouldn’t it?”
He rolled up to me real close for a minute, squinted his eyes and said, “Ya know any Merle Haggard?” Nothing in my CMP studies had prepared me for this, and since I’d never given much thought to the therapeutic healing values of “Okie from Muskogee,” I lied, and said something like “not right now.” He just continued to give me that hard stare and said, “Ya better learn some or I might have to whup me some ass!” I wasn’t too worried. Even as old and slow as I am, I can probably still outrun a guy in a wheelchair! He then turned his attention to the head nurse who seemed like she might have dealt with him before, and announced to her that someone had stolen his cell phone and if he ever caught the so-and-so that did it, there was going to be hell to pay!
The head nurse immediately showed the proper amount of concern and asked all the right questions. “Did you check the night stand?” or “Did you look in the bathroom?” etc. He came back negative on all those questions and his voice level was raising along with the color of his vocabulary. Finally, a young orderly who was working at the station asked the gentleman what his phone number was and when he dialed it up on his own phone, suddenly there was a muffled ringing from the seat of the wheelchair and our friend in the “Gilley’s” hat realized that he’d been sitting on his phone all along! He looked like he’d been stuck with a hot poker and I think you could probably hear the laughter half way to Castle Rock!
On a more solemn note, yesterday was the opening day of professional football season. It was also the day that Pat Bowlen, owner of the Denver Broncos, announced that due to the fact that he was battling Alzheimer’s disease, and had been for two years, was relinquishing control of the franchise and turning over the reins to others within the organization.
This brings reality home to everyone on this planet. You always hear excuses for the causes of this disease like, improper lifestyle, improper diet, not enough exercise etc., all the things people come up with to deny the truth. Alzheimer’s doesn’t play favorites. It goes wherever it wants to and attacks whomever it feels like. So far, the only thing we’re capable of doing is to care for these folks in the best possible manner we know of and to my knowledge, there is no known cure for this one yet.
In my music travels, I get to play for plenty of folks with Alzheimer’s. It’s sad to see people who were once active, functioning members of society be reduced to someone who needs constant care and attention but, sad to say, that’s the way Alzheimer’s works. Pray for a cure.
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