Monday, January 10, 2005

Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar

Joyce is an 80-something woman whose face and smile still reflect the beauty drawn out of her by the law of nature that dictates that everything wears out. Her lips are still full and sensual and her hair is almost perfect in even its pure white condition. Her bones are covered with soft skin from what I can tell by holding her hand. They’re prominent now rather than hidden by feminine padding and strapped upright into a wheelchair. One of those alarms that consist of a clamp, a cord, and an obnoxious buzzer droops between her shoulder and the blanket on her bed. I suppose it’s there to warn the staff if she drifts too far from her designated spot.

Joyce is sagged over the foam pad that keeps her in her chair and over in a corner of the room is another sagging human; head drooped to the chest and tied safely in facing the wall, never rousing during my entire visit with Joyce. Once again, the nursing home gives me a sense of overwhelming despair even in this one which is uncommonly beautiful.

When I met Joyce on my first visit I also met her long-time buddy. The two of them were two thirds of one of those Swing era trios with close harmony and bouncy music. I asked Joyce and her friend if they were called “The Andrews Sisters” and they laughed a sparkling kind of laugh that girlfriends enjoy in the moment of a private joke. I added my Santa Claus basso to it and we filled the hall with musical joy. Since then, whenever I feed my Andrew Sisters CD to my car stereo, I think of her. “Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy from Company B” makes me strip the age from Joyce in my mind and I see her and her buddies swinging to the mike and get down close to it -cheek to cheek as they meld harmony into one glorious sound. I can picture her sensuous lips shaping the air into the silly poetry of “Pennsylvania-Six- Five Oh, Oh, Oh” and the kids at the dance sing with them as they shake off the horrors of World War II. God, why am I so down about this withered presence I see tied to a chair? I don’t want her to go away. Maybe it’s my own mortality that I’m facing – again. Maybe I’m dying with my patients and my own experiences are promising to melt into the soil of the grave like hers.

“Does it surprise you that someone my age likes the Andrews Sisters? I sure wish I could hear you sing, Joyce.”

“Come on along, Come on along to Alexander’s Rag Time Band. Come on along. Come on along, it’s the best band in the land. Da, da, dadada, Come on along…” Joyce gave me a sample of her lead voice and she swayed in her chair as if she were on stage again. We were both laughing by this time. She ran out of the words she remembered just about the same time as me. We laughed her to sleep and I sat there and held her hand grieving her dieing as she slept slumped over her pad.


At Wednesday, 12 January, 2005 , Blogger Larry said...

What struck me about this post is that Joyce is bequeathing and leaving her humanity to you.

At Wednesday, 12 January, 2005 , Blogger Nurse Mia said...

I loved hearing about the laughter and joy that you shared together.

At Wednesday, 12 January, 2005 , Blogger Ken Bradstock said...

You know? You both may be right. Thanks for seeing that in this piece. I wish y'all could have been there to share this.


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