Albert didn’t talk much. He leaned quietly forward as his daughter kissed him on the cheek, reassuring him she would be back to get him after work. “Don’t go. Please. I want to go with you.” His daughter’s eyes welled up with tears as she gave him one more kiss, one more hug, and turned and walked out the door.
Someone took Albert’s arm. “Are you hungry, Albert? Your friends are having breakfast!” And within a few minutes, Albert was sitting at the table with 3 other men living with Alzheimer’s.
Sam talked endlessly about the war, forever fixing his shirt and pants, making sure his “gig line” was straight. He saluted everyone – all smiles. But Albert continued to look around, seemingly frightened, every few minutes asking if someone could please call his daughter.
“Drink your coffee, Albert, it’s good!” Albert used his fork to pick up some of his scrambled eggs, and before anyone could stop him, he put them into his coffee cup, and then poured that into the bowl of fruit at the center of the table. “Can someone call my daughter? She was supposed to pick me up.”
Attempts at distraction, one right after the other seemed fruitless. Escorted trips to the bathroom were often. Walks around the facility, into the kitchen, out through the living room, back into the dining area, round and round, all ended in Albert glancing at the clock he so well remembered on the wall, and a pleading look on his face. “Please, someone call my daughter. She is supposed to come and get me!”
Some days, I don’t know how the people who work here day after day after day, don’t go home overwhelmed with sadness.
But then the music plays. The man with the guitar comes in to sing and dance and interact with the mother and fathers, and grandmas and grandpas living with Alzheimer’s disease. And the faces light up. And the hands clap. The feet move. The atmosphere is lifted to a level unachieveable without music.
And Albert asks me for a dance. We boogie to old folk song after folk song, while Albert swings me and twirls me. Who knew! Albert still has moves! He’s somewhere still in there, I know it. He may have forgotten much, but what he remembers is still there, way deep inside.
And the music slows, and “Waltz Across Texas” plays. Albert takes a perfect waltz position, takes me in his arms, and remembering so naturally how to dance, he closes his eyes and dances the entire song, and I wonder if he is remembering holding his beloved wife. Albert is disconnected, he is somewhere else – Some place only he can go, a place he’s been before and remembers well.
And when the music ends, and the dance is over, Albert once again, glances at the clock and asks, “Can someone call my daughter?”
Oh, dear friend. Your loved one is still there, inside somewhere. I promise you that. I don’t have any answers to that excruciatingly painful, “But, why?” question. But I do know that music is powerful, and I do pray you get to waltz with your loved one, even if it only lasts for a few moments. Turn on the songs, embrace them, and just waltz.