Monday, October 15, 2007

Music has its Charms

Music has its Charms
“What now?” Robert thought to himself as the nurse shook his shoulder. “Why in the hell don’t they let me sleep,” he wondered to himself. It wasn’t as if he had somewhere to be. He knew he was a patient in a home, but beyond that he didn’t know much anymore. He’d had a good life altogether, and now he just wanted to sleep, but the tugging continued and finally he gave in and sat up. He looked around the room and saw a man lying beside him, snoring, and he wondered for a minute if he was back in the Navy. He looked in the mirror and saw the white hair and decided that probably wasn’t it. A nurse with a very high pitched voice reminded him, “Time to get up now Robert,” and he wearily pushed his arm into the sweater they had picked out for him.

At the breakfast table, the one with the squeaky voice was still hovering over him and he wished she would give him a little space. “Say hello to your friends Robert,” the nurse suggested, and he looked around and saw one lady asleep and two other men staring straight ahead. “Are these really my friends,” he thought to himself. He said hello politely and began to eat his breakfast, deciding that they must not be that great of friends if he couldn’t remember a thing about them.
He woke up to a radio playing, and it was a familiar tune. “Baby face, you’ve got the cutest little baby face,” the song went along. And then he remembered. He closed his eyes and saw her fiery red hair and remembered how it took him a half-hour and three glasses of beer to go up and talk to her. “There’s not another one who’ll take your place, baby-face,” the song continued, and indeed for him no one ever had. They got married as soon as he got back from the war, and those first years together were the happiest memories of his life.

Robert woke up, looked around and again wondered where he was. It seemed later now, and then, without warning a balloon hit him in the head. “Pay attention Robert!” a lady he had never seen before commanded. He looked up and there were people sitting in a circle tossing a balloon. He reared back and smacked the ball all the way to the other side of the room, “Bingo!” he yelled, thinking this might keep them off his back for a while. Then he heard the radio again. “You must remember this, a kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh,” the song went along. And once again his mind wandered back. He remembered the song from the movie Casablanca, and how it reminded him of his wife. It was the first movie they had ever seen together, and it should be a happy memory, but indeed it was not.

Robert’s wife had been killed in a car accident 8 years after they were married. They had three young daughters together, and without her he was lost. But he was a father, and he had to put on a brave face for his kids. He knew next to nothing about little girls, but they learned together as the years slipped away, and slowly, slowly after many, many years, the void in his heart left by his wife had begun to heal itself. “It’s still the same old story, a fight for love and glory,” the song continued. Every time he heard that song he could remember her red hair like it was yesterday. When he looked up a nurse was wiping a tear from his eye, and consoling him. He joined the balloon game they were playing to avoid making a scene, and soon he was back asleep again.

When he woke up again something had changed. He looked around his room, and saw a familiar face sleeping next to him “I wonder how long the good lord is going to let me lay around like this,” he said to no one in particular, and then he heard the familiar high voice and he began the morning routine once again. He seemed to be grasping things better today, and he said hello to a few people he knew. There was a spelling bee in the morning which he enjoyed, and he even managed to win a bag of chips in one of the bingo games. But now he was tired, and began wheeling towards his room. “Not until after dinner Robert,” a nurse reminded him, and he decided that he better just go along.

He put his head down on the table, when he heard the radio again. “When your heart’s on fire, you must realize, smoke gets in your eyes,” and he immediately remembered where he knew this one from. It was his daughter’s wedding song, and when he cut in to dance with her she looked so much like her mother he couldn’t help but feel incredible joy, sadness, and pride, all at once. His daughter had married a wonderful man, and he finally felt a little of the pressure lift from raising three young girls alone. They had done it, his family had made it, despite his thinking a million times they might not. He begun to sing out loud and eventually he got lost in his memories. Thankful for the radio that seemed so connected to the treasures of memory he wanted and needed to hold on to in his life

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Zsa Zsa

Zsa Zsa
“Jane, Jane! get over here right now, it’s time for your insulin,” a woman in a blue jumpsuit yelled impatiently. The woman was in fact a nurse from a neighboring facility helping out for the day, and had no idea she was in the presence of greatness. The woman continued to yell across the room until another nurse came over to clear up the problem.
“Try saying Zsa-Zsa, instead of Jane,” she recommended helpfully. And with that the nurse threw her hands up in the air, and wondered why she had agreed to work in the Alzheimer’s unit for the day.
“Zsa-Zsa, it’s time for your insulin!” and with that the woman in dark glasses turned and looked at the woman for the first time.
“Are you addressing me madam,” she sarcastically replied, appalled that someone would simply yell her name out and expect her to snap to attention like a dog. The woman was an American however, and she took this into account as she wheeled over to see what all the commotion was about.
What could be so urgent,” she asked, as the woman grabbed her by the arm and began preparing her for an insulin shot. But she let it go this time, and thought about the exotic life she must have led that she was paying for now. She couldn’t at the time exactly remember the exotic details, but she knew who she was and that was enough. Jane had in fact been born in Hungary, and was by anyone’s account a great beauty in her own right. But Jane didn’t interest her anymore and now she had decided that she was in fact the great Zsa Zsa Gabor.
Following her insulin shot she began wheeling her way back to the television set, hoping to catch a glimpse of herself on TV so she could admire the woman she once had been. Before she had become Zsa Zsa, Jane had been a wife and a mother and had taken care of her family all of her life without ever worrying about herself. Now, at the age of 83 her mind had appeared to right this horrible injustice and she believed, with every fiber of her being, that she was in fact Zsa Zsa Gabor.
Her children, who came to visit often, were at first amused by their mother’s antics and then began to grow more concerned. She demanded they provide her with scarfs and wraps and jewelry and they had nearly cleaned out the costume jewelry shops trying to placate their mother’s demand that “diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”
You she Zsa Zsa had given up everything for her children, and they felt that they owed her at this late stage of her life. They knew they had often been selfish children, and even when their mother was working two jobs to support the family, they always demanded more from her and now it seemed they were getting their comeuppance.
Her daughter Karen was especially appreciative of her mother, and when the annual “King and Queen” contest in the nursing home began, she thought of a way she might pay her mother back. You see the nursing home had started a tradition a couple of years back where they announced a King and Queen every year from among the residents that was voted on by the staff, residents, as well as the family members of the people in the facility. The award was usually given to friendly and cooperative residents of the facility, and Karen new her mother had very little chance of being elected by those qualifications.
So slowly she began to hatch her plan, at first slipping an entire booklet of ballots into her purse which she then brought home and filled out with her mother’s name on it. Over the next few weeks she continued to stuff the ballot box until she was sure she had at least given her mother a good chance to win.
A couple of weeks later at the annual coronation, Karen had dressed her mother up in all of her favorites. She had on her oversized dark glasses, her scarf, a boa, and Karen had even bought her some flowers in the event that she won the contest. When the time came to announce the winner Karen was extremely nervous, and then, finally the announcement came,
“And our Queen this year is, Jane Krackow,” the MC announced over the loudspeaker. But Jane made no attempt to move and she looked around with the other residents wondering who this person was. Karen laughed to herself and went and whispered something to the MC who then chuckled to himself and began again.
“It seems there was a small error, the winner this year is Zsa, Zsa Gabor,” the announcer boomed over the microphone.
And with that Zsa Zsa took the stage. As the MC wheeled her around the room for a victory lap, she threw flowers at the audience, and blew kisses, and even stopped a couple of times and offered her hand for the men in the audience to kiss. When it came time for her to make her speech she took the microphone from the MC and told everyone how she really just had “so many people she wanted to thank.”
Karen looked up and her mother with a sense of great amusement and pride, happy her mother had found some joy in her life after so many years of sacrifice.