Sometimes, you realize you know stuff you don't even know you know.
Earlier this afternoon, I learned that I understand way more of the Polish language than I'd thought. And it came to me like a two-by-four upside the head.
|MAKING MUSICAL HOUSECALLS: Have accordion, will travel|
I was at a nursing home, about 12 city blocks south from our house in Toronto. It's called Copernicus Lodge, and my lovely and late mother in law Marie Szybalski
spent the final 18 months or so of her life there, on the fourth floor.
The fourth is where the residents with advanced alzheimer's and other dementia-type problems live.
When my time comes, I'll be fine if they park me at Copernicus. The staff's always smiling and compassionate; the patients' lounges look out over Lake Ontario, and the food's tasty, I hear.
The only thing is, there's a lot of downtime.
When Marie was alive, my wife Helena encouraged me to visit with my guitar or accordion in tow. She said it livened things up between meals.
So once in a while, you'd find Pete strolling among the fourth-floorers, strumming his way through "Fulsom Prison Blues," or "Sudbury Saturday Night", to an extremely receptive albeit alzheimery audience of about 15 or 20 souls--the majority of them in wheelchairs, many completely unaware of what's going on around them; and most two breaths away from their post-lunch naps.
The population is about 90-percent Polish-speaking. I have no clue whether they liked my versions of, say, the saddest country song ever written--"He Stopped Loving Her Today," or the equally heart-breaking, "Ruby Don't Take Your Love to Town." I've also quote unquote performed my own composition "All of My Good Friends Are Dead." They get more than their fair share of Stompin' Tom Connors, too.
|ON A COPERNICUS SATURDAY NIGHT|
I actually know one real Polish song--"Sto Lat!" The title means "100 Years" and it's the equivalent of "Happy Birthday." A few residents and the staff usually clap and sing along with that one. Truth is, they'd be fine if I just forgot about the other songs and just did "Sto Lat!" over and over and over again.
I LOVE where this audience sets the bar.
(I'd like to at this moment give a nod to my grand nephew Timothy Gordon Jr., a swell guy who also plays guitar and who says he likes my blogs but they do go on a bit and he's right. They do. I'm almost done, Tim.)
My mother in law passed away about two years ago. Recently, Helena suggested we relaunch my alzheimers singing career,and that's why we were there today.
We were happy to see some of the same residents are still on hand. And I've grown my repertoire. One of my new favorites is a singalong called "Shine." If the Copernicus residents understood the lyrics, they'd love it. The chorus?
"Let'em get high,
"Let'em get stoned,
"Everything will be alright,
"If you let it go."
Speaking of--and here's where I realized I know more Polish than I thought--I was about 25 minutes into the visit today when I heard one of the residents--a retired priest and scholar who many years ago earned a PhD in Theology and who used to be the late Marie's lunch tablemate at Copernicus--make a comment, in his native tongue.
To my surprise, I understood.
Here's what he said. "Dosc! Boli mnie bol glowy."
Here's how Google Translate (and my brain) translated it: "Enough! You're giving me a headache."
I took the hint, came home, and wrote this blog.