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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Forever Elvis

I heard music playing as I was walking down the East hall.  I stopped for a moment to listen.

♫ Why can't you see
What you're doin' to me
When you don't believe a word I say?

We can't go on together
With suspicious minds ♫

 Elvis!  I thought, as I opened my eyes widely.

“Where is the music coming from?” I asked Julia, a nurse assistant who was walking by.

“From Ms. Reid’s room,” Julia replied.  “She loves Elvis.”

“I like Elvis too!” I exclaimed, grinning. 

The music was captivating. It carried Elvis’ delightful voice through the air, a wisp one does not want to miss.   

I can’t just walk by!  I relented as I turned around, and headed directly toward Ms. Reid’s room.

Except for Elvis’ crooning, Ms. Reid’s room was a place of solace, decorated with Elvis pictures and ornaments.  A large CD player sat on her bedside table.  Ms. Reid was sitting in her recliner, staring at the ceiling, apparently captivated by a daydream. 

As I quietly approached Ms. Reid I caught her attention, briefly.  Her Alzheimer’s dementia had advanced to the point that she often had difficulty communicating with others and couldn’t focus most of the time. 

Except when she heard one word: Elvis.

“I see you like Elvis,”  I commented.

“Uh?” she murmured, looking at me with some apprehension.  I felt like an intruder who had just disturbed her pleasant thoughts.  Elvis broke into another song.

“That’s a beautiful song,”  I said.

Ms. Reid’s smile returned. 

“Can you show me the Elvis book you have there?”  I pointed toward a large book that she had laid on her table.  A magnificent photo of Elvis graced the cover.

“Yes!”  She eagerly replied.

I handled the book to her. Her delicate hands held it in such a way that it was obvious the book was one of her most treasured possessions.  She started to flip through the thick pages.

Ms. Reid had very few words to express, but her eager eyes and her smile told her story.  Somehow, Elvis’ songs rekindled in her warm memories of loving and charming times of her past.  

I noticed the book contained information and pictures.  At the end of the book, right before Ms. Reid closed it, I became intrigued by a small detail I spied. I noticed that the last two or three pages of the book had been ripped out.  Ms. Reid seemed unaware of it.  I frowned, and promptly switched my focus to her bright blue eyes staring at me.  I smiled and encouraged further conversation about other items in the room. She had a tote with Elvis’ photo imprinted on it.  An Elvis poster adorned a wall. 

I left Ms. Reid in good spirit.  And so was I, except for my curiosity about the missing pages of the book. 

Months later, I thought of Ms. Reid when my husband and I spent a weekend in Memphis.  We visited Graceland, Elvis’ home.

It was a magnificent tour.  I felt vibrant while walking throughout Elvis’ home, looking at his fancy suits, his photos, his awards.

His soul was there. His talent was still alive. 

The “Meditation Garden” was the last stop on the tour. That was Elvis’ grave.  A feeling of emptiness embraced me.  I turned around and left the area quickly. 

After returning from my trip, I happened to meet Ms. Reid’s daughter at the nursing home. I enjoyed telling her that I had thought of her mother during my visit to Graceland.

“Her obsession with Elvis is really something new,” her daughter said.  “One day she suddenly became an Elvis fan.” 

“It seems to make her happy.” I replied. 

“Definitely,” her daughter exclaimed.  “She can get very agitated sometimes and Elvis’ music calms her down.”

“I’ve seen that,” I expressed. “I am glad it works out that way, but I have what may seem to be a curious question. I noticed that the last two or three pages of her Elvis book are missing.”

“Oh!” her daughter exclaimed and laughed.  “My mother doesn’t know Elvis is dead. We don’t want her to know. So we tore off the pages that referred to his death and burial site.”

Of course! I realized, open-mouthed. I recalled the sadness that struck me at the Meditation Garden. 

“It makes perfect sense!” I said, as I shook my head. 


Karin said...

I can relate - we had a resident like that too. We even had a Rock & Roll Social program in the Rec. Aud. and she allowed us to use her posters to decorate the auditorium - old records hanging from the ceiling. It was fun!

Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Doris,

Thanks for your sweet visit! That always means a lot to me.
This post is again a very touching one and so thoughtful for having removed the last pages... That would be wise for a lot of occasions, for keeping the momentum alive and the person in high spirits longer!

As to your question if I was ready for Christmas. This year we just let Christmas come upon us and we're so grateful we both are feeling well after all that happened this year. Don't have time for doing anything this year. There was so much to catch up on that we don't need more stress. For us, we celebrate Christmas always in the Christian way anyway; no gifts. That is for St. Nicholas on December 5th; if any. But more often than not, we have 365 days of the year St. Nicholas compared to so many in this world! We learned that from our many travels and work in all countries...
We all are blessed for living in this great nation!

Lots of love,

Mariette's Back to Basics

Just Be Real said...

I enjoyed reading this Doris, thank you. Blessings.

Anonymous said...

Doris, I always look forward to your posts because they are filled with such compassion and sensitivity. I'm sure that Elvis is smiling and happy that his music lives on. I hope that she never finds out about those missing pages and continues to enjoy the tunes.

Anne Gallagher said...

That is one of my favorite Elvis tunes.

This was such a wonderful post, Doris. You have such a charming way of telling stories.

And I'm glad Mrs. Reid still thinks Elvis is alive because I do too. He's hiding somewhere in Vegas, being an Elvis impersonator.

Amrita said...

I like Elvis too.

I think he created a new fashion style for pop artists.

So sweet of Mrs Reid' s family to protect her for this sadness.

I protect my Mom from all alarming news and sadness, specially the passing away of her comtemporaries.

Jules said...

Most moving post here. My roommates mother has "Picks" disease and I can attest, music transcends all mental hardships. A lesson we could stand to learn from time to time :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Mary Aalgaard said...

Music stimulates memories and calms. I'm feeling more and more a need to share my music at a memory care center. Great stories.

Ann said...

What a wonderful story. Music has that power to transend our souls and bring yesterday into the present for its duration. What a sensible daughter to remove those sad pages.

floweringmama said...

What a great post. I really enjoyed reading it. Thank you for sharing and I look forward to reading more.

Unknown said...

Wonderful sharing. Elvis is much alive especially when we hear his voice in his songs.

Anonymous said...

I like Elvis very much. He was my era. My daughter likes him too.

And as always, I like your story. Another wonderful one, with that "twist" at the end!! You are--I presume, I hope--keeping a journal of these fascinating stories you've shared on your blog. They could be published!!

Have a wonderful holiday!!!
from your friends Ann & Jen

Arlee Bird said...

Music has such a powerful effect on most of us. It can connect to memories and the past unlike anything else. I'll bet Mrs. Reid must have liked Elvis at some time in her past or his music had some special meaning to her.
I wonder if years from now there will be elderly people sentimentally listening to rap and speed metal music and the like. The thought is somewhat surreal and amusing.
Love that song "Suspicious Minds"

Tossing It Out

A Plain Observer said...

I know a man who has advanced dementia. It is more shocking because i remember him 20 years ago when he was delightful, funny, and so entertaining. He remains funny, with a delightful sense of humor but it is impossible to carry a conversation with him. No short term memory.

I guess if Ms Reid was told Elvis is dead she wouldn't remember. Sometimes we wish we could forget painful memories. Maybe dementia has its plus.

cyclopseven said...

We live not within this physical world alone, but within the recesses of our minds we leave our footprints too. So, let whatever that gives us hope and calmness be our sunshine...

...and for Ms Reid it is Elvis' songs. God bless.

DUTA said...

Elvis' voice has touched, still touches many people all over the world. He was a phenomenon with a unique voice.

Your story about Ms. Reid and Elvis' music is wonderfully written and very moving.

none said...

I love the details you give throughout the story that make it come alive and add a touch of sensitivity. I read it with suspense as I wondered why the pages were ripped out. This story brought to mind the question of whether or not it's okay to hide certain things from people, especially those who are sick in some way. I believe that it is okay to do that at times. Very moving piece.

MTeacress said...

That's a lovely story. I remember trying to have a sleepover at a friend's house when I was a girl - they had an Elvis shrine in their basement. Haha! It went well with the red shag carpet. ;)

Anonymous said...

Elvis lovers everywhere!

guímel said...


Que o amor cresça em nossos corações e que a paz reine em toda a humanidade.
Feliz Natal e um Ano Novo de muitas Realizações!


Michele said...

Merry Christmas!

Amrita said...

Hapy Christmas to you

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

That was a cool story.
And, yes, why not remove any references to Elvis' death?

Besides, most people realize that Elvis is not really dead anyway. I saw him all over the place during a recent trip to Las Vegas. Even had a conversation with him on a street corner.

And heck, I understand that just last week Elvis was spotted in a cigar shop in Cuba, and the week before that he was seen at the bingo parlor in Podunkville, Iowa. ELVIS LIVES!, I tell ya!

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Patricia Stoltey said...

A wonderful story. What a thoughtful and loving thing for a daughter to do.