Older Asian Man Sitting By DaughterWhat’s the value of a smile? Of a dance? Of finding one’s place in a new community?

Imagine you’ve just moved to a memory care community. It’s disorienting, to say the least. Your daughter is right there by your side, and everyone is really nice, saying, “Bob, how are you doing?” “Bob, would you like some coffee?” “I think that dog likes you, Bob!” But you don’t remember having met these people. And that’s not your dog. And where can you find a bathroom around here?

Or maybe you’re Christine, Bob’s “number two daughter,” and you just want him to be happy. Most of the time, Dad can carry on a conversation like nothing’s wrong. He does magic tricks for the grandkids, and he grumbles about the politicians in Washington just like always. But he can’t seem to get dressed all the way, and he forgets to feed the dog. You knows he’s forgetting his medications, too, and you’re scared he’ll take too many and really hurt himself. The last straw was when Dad took the dog out on a walk last week and couldn’t find his way home. He was just across the street.

Or maybe you’re Shelly, and you’re the community liaison who just helped Christine move Bob to his new apartment. You know this will be the right place for him and that it always takes time for them to settle in, but you’re anxious to please both Bob and Christine. You want them both to know that they’ve made the right decision. In that effort to please, you suggest that Bob and Christine attend the music group starting soon.

The music therapist has already begun the session and is singing a familiar song incorporating each participant’s name into the verses. As the music-making continues, Bob and Christine fit right in, and Bob answers a couple of name that tune questions and sings along with a couple of songs. He seems to be enjoying himself. So does everyone else, actually, even those ladies in wheelchairs that barely seem awake most of the time – Barbara is smiling, and Dolores is tapping her toes.

The session ends, and the music therapist puts on one last song to play while she picks up the drums and tambourines the participants have been playing. She’s dancing around a bit as she moves around the group, and when she gets to Bob, she accepts his tambourine and gives a rhythmic little shake as she turns around to put it away.

That’s when it happens. Bob – Dad – stands up and starts wiggling his hips side to side. Christine pops up, too, grabs her daddy’s hands and starts dancing with him. They’re moving their feet and wiggling their arms – nothing too fancy but absolutely perfect at the same time. Shelly grabs her phone to snap a quick photo. She knows Christine will want that later.

The song ends. The music therapist claps her hands for the dancers, and a few other residents join in. Then Bob and Christine, smiling, walk back down the hallway to find some lunch.

It could have been a rough day. But with music? One more day made sublime.

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