Do you remember where you were the day that Elvis Presley died? I do. I was at work in a Super X Drug Store stocking shelves when it came over the radio. Dad remembers the day Hank Williams, Sr., died. As he tells me, he came home to discover his mother, my grandmother Helen, crying while ironing the laundry. Dad and I recently discussed the most iconic song by Patsy Cline. Although I like “Baby, Baby,” he and some of our friends and family think “Crazy” was her most memorable recording.
Music is an important part of our day. We listen to create an atmosphere of calm, cue an activity in a certain room, relax during dinner, and pass the time on long road trips. I remember listening and singing to country music as a child. First on the radio, then on an 8-track which was monumental. The 8-track was portable and meant we could listen to music while we were outside doing chores, working on Dad’s 1947 Ford truck, and with an adapter to the cigarette lighter in the car, even when we were camping. I carry an iPod shuffle in my purse with about four hours of music for unexpected occasions, long appointment waits, or in case Dad becomes restless on an airplane flight. It is small enough to fit in his pocket, clips on to his shirt and he listens with earphones.
Nowadays we listen to Pandora on Portals and cell phones, and vinyl on a turntable that is set up next to Dad’s chair. With his dementia, we sometimes listen to the same album several times before he realizes he has already heard the other side.
Recently, Dad began sharing his in-person experiences with country music artists. One involves Johnny Cash discovered hiding out on the family property of sixty acres of woods to evade the draft. Another was Jim Reeves walking down the street in the small town where Dad grew up. When he recognized and spoke to Jim, Dad learned he was living there in hiding to keep his wife from knowing he was alive. Dad also shares how he met Dolly Parton and was invited to one her rehearsals. He was the only one there and was privileged to see the entire show. Dad was out for a walk along the lakeshore one evening and found Patsy Cline in a dilemma. She needed to get to a large boat out on the water and had no one to assist her. Dad found a small rowboat. He delivered her safely just in time for her performance on the dinner yacht. Patsy was so grateful.
Dad particularly enjoys country gospel music performed by Alan Jackson and Jim Reeves. He listens to Eddy Arnold, Charley Pride, Sons of the Pioneers, Hank Williams, Sr., Tammy Wynette, George Jones, George Strait, Tom T. Hall, and other artists. We sing along as we have since I was a child.
If Dad ever tells you a story about Charley Pride, its true. I purchased tickets to a concert for his birthday a few years ago. Although I could not take him, I arranged for a caregiver to attend. They had front row balcony seats and as Dad will tell you, “We could see everything, and it was a great show!”