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music, mom and me

by Judy
June 9, 2014

“Joy, sorrow, tears, lamentation, laughter -- to all these music gives voice, but in such a way that we are transported from the world of unrest to a world of peace, and see reality in a new way, as if we were sitting by a mountain lake and contemplating hills and woods and clouds in the tranquil and fathomless water.” – Albert Schweitzer

I’ve been thinking about music lately and what a profound and Universal effect it has worldwide. Music goes deep into our being - evokes many feelings; memories, nostalgia... uplifts us to heavenly realms, moves the spirit and the feet and brings joy; sometimes sadness and tears. It is so much a part of our life, connected with different time periods, people and events. 

I was thinking about this in relationship to my elderly mom, but also in terms of myself. I can go back to childhood when my brother and I were small and shared a room together. At nighttime, we had a game we played. We would put our feet up on the wall and pretend that we were pressing different buttons. Each button represented a different type of song that the other person had to sing and the final button would be a song that we had to make up. Singing was very much part of our growing up. We would even do pretend entertainments with our parents and often break into song throughout the day.

I grew up during the fifties - the beginning of rock and roll with Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis - the list is endless. And then in my teens came the folk singers singing songs of meaning and protest like Joan Baez, Odetta, Phil Ochs and of course Bob Dylan - again an endless list. In between this, was the era of Broadway musicals – famous teams like Rogers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe and the wondrous Frank Loesser. Living near New York City, my parents would often go to a new Broadway musical and sometimes come back with a record from the show which I would listen to so much that I felt like I had seen the show myself. And at home in my early teens, I also was introduced to classical music, which my Dad particularly loved, and to what I would call “old time music” from my parent’s era: music of Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and songs sung by Perry Como, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra - too many singers to name them all. And there was always old time American music like “Oh Susanna” and Spiritual gospels like "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" ... the list is endless in all directions and continued to expand as I got older.

I have never been the kind of person who listens to music all the time; nor has my mom and yet …and yet music has played a big role in our lives, both in the past and now as I am helping to care for her at home. Since she is confined most of the day to a hospital bed, is almost blind and very tired, music is a joy and comfort. A while ago I started ordering Broadway musicals for her which I had not listened to for years. I was surprised to find how really good they are - both lyrics and melody. My mom particularly likes to hear My Fair Lady, Oklahoma, and South Pacific, but we have gathered many more over the past years. She has also enjoyed listening to the old time swooners like Dean Martin and Tony Bennett. 

And most recently, and always who she comes back to again and again is, believe it or not, Sir Paul McCartney. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to see my mom listening to him while her feet are moving under covers to the rhythm. She never tires to listen to one of his CDs called Kisses on the Bottom where Paul uncharacteristically sings very old fashioned songs in a very mellow voice. Mom always comments on how soothing his voice is. It’s like she enters a different dimension when she hears this music…like greeting an old friend and having a cup of tea with them. My mom did come from a musical family of four siblings. She played the violin (often by ear), her sister played the piano, one brother played violin and the other played the saxophone. She said when they would play together, her father, from the old country, would listen with tears rolling down his eyes. He said it was better than any philharmonic orchestra.

 Music brings us back to joy, to play, to being together, to dancing, singing and to God or whatever we equate with God…it’s like the background or foreground of our lives…weaving in and out…bringing back memories and in my mom’s case, transporting her to soft realms of peace and comfort.

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