It hadn’t started out as the best of days. I’d had a run-in at the local Foodtown with a man who complained when I’d left my cart “parked” too close to the center of the aisle while I searched for a greeting hard. “It’s always women who do this,” he said loudly after he banged into my cart and passed me huffily. “You need to go home and crawl back into your cave,” I answered instructively. At first I was surprised by my chutzpah, then I was relieved that the man had continued walking without a retort. Perhaps I had acted unwisely or even unkindly, but here’s the thing I told myself: Once you have been turned inside out by life events — instructed, as it were — there really is no turning back. I find myself so much less willing to take other people’s you-know-what. I tried to shake the incident off and keep moving quickly, as I wanted to be on my way to visit Mom at the nursing home before traffic got hairy at 3 p.m. My sweet friend Di had sent me a Halloween card for Mom, and I was excited about delivering it.
Perhaps because of my negative encounter during my shopping trip, I felt more drained than usual. Since it is so hard to navigate my way to and through the nursing home while carrying two cups of coffee, I usually only buy just one and deliver it to Mom. But I was sorely in need of some caffeine, so I ordered a pumpkin-flavored brew for myself. I ended up, of course, with the dreaded and unwieldy cardboard tray. Some of my precious pumpkin coffee — dang it — spilled out as I wrestled the tray into the car. Then I arrived at the nursing home. The rain, which had begun as just a mist, began in earnest as I made my way down the path to the lobby door. “Could this day get any worse?” I thought. And then it did. As it turns out, Mom was in an activity. Usually, that is my cue to return any coffee to the car until the activity is over and we are both back in the upstairs Day Room. It’s just more manageable that way. But man, I really needed that coffee. And so, cardboard tray in hand, I entered the large dining room on the first floor not knowing what to expect. I was hoping for Bingo. What I got was Melanie and Sonny.
Melanie and Sonny were making their first visit to Mom’s nursing home to provide entertainment. I found a spot near Mom and sit down as quickly and unobtrusively as I could, as one thing was obvious as soon as I arrived — Melanie and Sonny were magnificently talented singers and guitarists, and everyone was enjoying their performance. They were delivering a rollicking country tune when I arrived. I thanked my lucky stars that I had apparently joined the crowd near the beginning of the show, as Melanie and Sonny went on to cover a wide range of songs. All of them were uniformly spectacular. Their version of “Here Comes the Sun” was especially beautiful and meaningful, and took me worlds away from the recent unpleasantness I had experienced and been a part of. I looked at the faces around me, and everyone seemed to be getting lost in the performance. Toes tapped, lips mouthed lyrics, eyes closed as memories flooded in. People who thought that perhaps they could never feel “cool” again suddenly did. Then Melanie performed a love song she had written, her plaintive and gorgeous voice displaying the hope and promise of eternal commitment to someone irreplaceable. The applause afterward was so enthusiastic that she blushed.
It struck me that Melanie and Sonny were pouring their hearts into the performance. I had to remind myself that we were in a nursing home dining room, because it may as well have been the stage at Madison Square Garden. When I spoke with Melanie and Sonny after the performance, I learned that they usually take the stage at venues in Ocean County. They told me about local eateries, along with cancer care centers where they play for patients and their families. It was clear to me that Melanie and Sonny were equally excited about both types of gigs, and saw no difference between the two venues. I have no doubt that, just as they had at the nursing home, Melanie and Sonny continually deliver “the goods” no matter where they find themselves playing. They were, in a word, inspirational.
My spirits lifted significantly, I tackled the rest of my long day with a better attitude and a reminder to be charitable, always. Even at the Foodtown. Even if it kills me.
I was too shy to ask for a photo of Melanie and Sonny (shocking, I know), but you can find them on Facebook. They are good people. I know from experience, having heard an elderly wheelchair-bound resident ask them for a business card after the performance.
“Of course, here you go,” Sonny said, treating the resident as though she were a music industry VIP.
Like I said. Inspirational.