Monday, February 13, 2006

Gerontophobia

Tonight's the Valentine's party at school, and I've been home sick all day sleeping, coughing, blowing my nose, and watching the sixth season of Frasier (thanks, Sharri). On Friday, the high school guys were supposed to wear a hat to school if they were available, and the girls would then pin something to the hat of the guy they asked to the Valentine party. Girls at the dorm on Thursday night were a bit giddy, and I hear that there was a crowd of girls waiting for the guys' dorm vans to arrive early Friday morning. :) Sorry I missed that photo opportunity!

Last weekend, I went with the strings and choir kids to a church in France to do outreach. First, we visited a hospital and a nursing home. It's been a long time since I visited a nursing home. There are two that I walk past on my way to school every day. If I leave early enough, there's a woman who will be in the common room on the second floor of the building closest to school. She'll wave down at me, and I'll wave back up. If I forget to look up, she'll rap on the glass to remind me. I haven't left early enough in a couple weeks. And it certainly hasn't occurred to me to go in and visit her. I'm sure there are whole college courses on this subject--I know it's gotta be related to my fear of being in there myself or the inability to face old age. Whatever it is, it sucks, and I don't like it.

Maybe I expect them to be cranky or not care, because I was really surprised when the men and women in Mullhouse were appreciative and some followed us around the entire time. One old man was walking around and clapping for each song. The ladies with us explained that he was a pianist and had been pretty famous in his younger days. He wanted to give us a concert, too, so we agreed to meet him downstairs by the piano after we were done.


A few choir members and one of their faithful fans.

One woman started yelling unintelligible syllables while the kids were singing a capella in the hallway. I had designated myself official photographer, since we decided not to lug a keyboard up and down the halls. I don't know any French, so I motioned to some of the women that did. "I think it might be too loud for her," I offered. The lady chaplain went in to speak with her. "No, she just wants the group to come into her room so she can see them," the chaplain explained.

She had explained to us earlier that nearly all of the 400 people in that hospital wing would be in a bed for the rest of their lives. So 20 of us crammed into the small hospital room and sang "Give Me Jesus." The last verse was especially moving to those of us who spoke English..

Oh and when I come to die
Oh and when I come to die
Oh and when I come to die
Give me Jesus

Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
Oh and when I come to die
Give me Jesus

Dangit, I want to have Him before that! After writing all of this, I have visions of myself becoming the next Florence Nightingale to the nursing homes of Germany. In high school, I started walking to the nursing home across the street with my piano books. I played on the baby grand in the foyer, and there were lots of folks who would wheel or walker themselves in to listen. But then they started asking for requests. I didn't know the pieces they wanted to hear, and I felt like I disappointed them. So I didn't go anymore. Maybe that was just my excuse, though, to not have to go back.

The formerly-famous pianist gave us a delightful concert on the electric piano downstairs. He and his knobby, niccotine-stained fingers played Chopin, Debussy, and a familiar French tune. I sat right by his hands, and he looked up, smiled, and winked while mumbling in French. We cheered and clapped, and some of the kids played for him, too. As we left, I gave him the traditional French kiss-on-each-cheek goodbye. He grinned and reached for his cigarettes that one of the chaplains was holding out for him.

I guess walking in was relatively easy. It was the walking out that was hard. Walking out is still hard. Maybe that means I should be walking back in more often . . .

(pictures from the trip)

3 comments:

Andronicus said...

Great story Suz. We know you're busy, but these are the things we (and by we i'm just assuming I speak collectively for you're blog fans) want more of.
the andy

M.E. said...

wow.

not much i can say after that. i pray God will give you much courage to "walk back in" to places which He is nudging you to enter.

mari ellen

Myles said...

your eyes look really pensive in that picture. what are they thinking?