August 2017

Summer is often a busy period for musicians. Last month, I had some nice performances in festivals and summer school. I’ll get back to them later in other posts. I missed my monthly visit at the dementia care house in July because I was performing abroad. Luckily, I was available to go there in August, last week.

Compare to the hustle and bustle of my summer performances, it is very quiet here. Almost forgotten. The woman who usually goes with me, A., is on holidays, so I do my round with the nurse organising this activity, H. She is very dedicated to her patients and very calm. She gathers the two first women of her list and guides them to a quiet room. One of them is curled up on herself in her wheelchair, she looks as if she is asleep. The only sign of life she gives comes from her right foot, moving in cadence with the music. At some moments, she moves her head up and looks at me, then collapses again. The second one, Mrs F., is weeping softly, from the beginning to the end, wiping her eyes with the foot of her Teddy Bear. I know her from my very first day. She already cried when I played, but at the same time, she said how beautiful the music was, telling endless unintelligible stories.  Most of the other times, she had a big smile and even more stories. Three years later, she can’t do anything else than crying. She tries to speak at some moments, but the words don’t flow anymore. I look in her eyes but I can’t read them. I feel sad for her.

Then we go to Mrs Nemo, who lies in bed. She used to hum when I played for her. But she can’t do it anymore, although she makes big efforts to express something – words? humming?-. I’m deeply touched today by these two old patients I’ve learned to know throughout the years. I see them often enough to recognise them, but not often enough not to be shocked by the deterioration of their health.

We continue with the African woman, Mrs M., who is usually very agitated. But not today. Not at the moment I’m with her. Normally, I can’t play much more than one or two tunes before she gets agitated again. Sometimes she keeps on shouting while I’m playing. But today she is incredibly listening.  I play tunes after tunes, switching between honkyoku, minyo and children songs, she listens carefully to everything. H. is surprised: “she is really listening“, she says. When we have to leave, Mrs. M. says she enjoyed the music. When we walk again in her corridor half an hour later, we can hear her screaming in her room.

After a few more patients, the last woman of the day is a very smiley one. She is lying in bed and happy to have a bit of company. When I start playing,  she looks at her feet sticking out the bedsheets, moving with the music, and she laughs at them as if they were somebody else’s feet. She likes the music a lot, says a few nice words and gives me applauses.

All the little events and strong emotions, I collect them all: the nice smile, the deep attention,  the tears and the Teddy Bear, the dancing feet, the silent humming, the words that can’t be formed anymore. They are all part of my experience of today, and the reason I will go again next month, in September.

Related posts: Summertime, Inspiration, Shakuhachi and dementia: how it started, and others.


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