Friday, 16 December 2011

Entertaining the Old Folks

I think Teen Twin Two has discovered a little bit of the true spirit of Christmas, or at least discovered Christmas is not entirely about presents and chocolate and, um, more presents.

Yesterday, she was in a group from school that went to the local old folks' home to sing to the residents and bring a little festive cheer into their lives. She wasn't entirely looking forward to it, she's sung in choirs since junior school and they're quite big on dragging them out to seasonally entertain geriatrics, possibly on the basis that they can't run away. Old folks' homes, according to Teen Twin Two, smell of wee and cabbage. But mostly wee.

The school have been running similar visits for years and years, but this year, for the first time, the unthinkable happened. Somebody dies in the audience. A little old lady who had apparently been sleeping in her chair was discovered not to be sleeping at all. Her body, while the choir was asked to sing on, was discreetly removed and her chair turned to face the wall.

Watching this whilst still performing was traumatic enough for the assembled 15 and 16 year olds, but they sang on knowing that the old lady's death would be far more traumatic for the residents who all were, it transpired, suffering from various forms of dementia. 

Several of the residents thought it still wartime, one asking when it was time to go back to the munitions factory. One of them carried around a doll pretending it was her baby. Some asked them if they'd come to take them home mistaking the students for relatives. One clutched Teen Twin Two's hand and said: "Please, I don't want to die here."

I'm just glad I wasn't there because I'd have been in bits and heading for the door, but Teen Twin Two picked up a brush and styled some old duffer's thin and wispy hair. And Teen Twin Two went off and sang some old lady her favourite song from 'Oliver' (she made her cry but in a good way *hopes*). And, when one of her troupe was so reminded of his own (dead) grandfather that he couldn't sing, she stepped up to sing "White Christmas" ALL ON HER OWN.

I am SO proud of her.

And when she came home and said: "Somebody died at the carol concert" and I laughed, because you would laugh (you do laugh), she didn't slap me in the face. Though only because I'd already grabbed her into a hug because that is, also, what you do.

Rest in peace, Irene.

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