Found a "Job" - Lost 20 Years!

Posted by: Kathy Harmon on 7/9/2010
Dear Readers,
Once again I would like to share a story.  I chair a women's luncheon each spring.  Our attendance averages 150.  We all wear hats and bring a woman (friend or relative) who has had a positive impact on our lives.  At some point in the festivities we are asked to turn to that person, tell her we love her and give her a hug.  It's colorful, fun and sweet.  I bring my mom.  For those of you who have read past newsletters you know that she is approaching her 86th birthday and has seemed to slow down a bit.
We usually have a fashion show but this year we also had the first performance ever of Alive and Kickin' - a new choral group comprised of extremely talented elders ranging in age from 66 to 93.  A gentleman named Michael Farrell, a choreographer for much of his career, saw the film Young At Heart and took up the mission of creating this group.
We met for the dress rehearsal from 7-9 pm the night before and I learned that the group had been together for three weeks, most had never sung the songs on the program -- Stand by Me, Celebration and We are the World-- had practiced with two microphones, better acoustics and instruments and were extremely nervous.  The rehearsal was a catastrophe.  The singers couldn't hear, kept running into each other at the single microphone, the piano was too loud, the 30-foot cafeteria ceilings had a resounding echo and no one could remember their lines.  I went home a bit depressed.
Fourteen hours later and it was show time!  We served wine and I asked the servers to be especially generous.  I thought we would politely accept whatever performance we got, give a perfunctory round of applause and start planning for next year's event.  After all, one of the gentlemen had a battery-operated heart pump strapped around his waist with a spare in his pocket, most wore hearing aids, and one was in a wheelchair, two in walkers and a couple of the singers used canes.
But what a lovely surprise was in store!  In those intervening hours, between rehearsal and performance, the group rented two microphones with better speakers and practiced, practiced, practiced.  They were simply amazing.  There was nothing perfunctory about the standing ovation they received.  Their energy and talent ignited the room.
There really is a point to this story.  My mother congratulated the director and mentioned that she used to sing three-part harmony with her sisters.  She accepted an invitation to audition for the group on the following Monday.  Mom was nearly crippled with anxiety that Sunday inventing a series of excuses why she shouldn't post.  She "hadn't the talent," "didn't want to depend on others to drive her," "was embarrassed," and the like.   But on Monday morning her neighbor drove her to the appointed location and dropped her at the door.   She sang a Scottish ditty without accompaniment and then was asked to sing Somewhere over the Rainbow to test her range.
Three hours later my mother arrived home 20 years younger.  She was filled with confidence and a renewed sense of independence--she had decided she could drive herself to the rehearsals.   Suddenly she was scouring the universe for a CD player.  She had music to learn, CDs to play and a performance wardrobe to assemble.  Until a couple of years ago she was the chair of her high school reunions.  Her 1942 class was nearly 400 strong and she brought them together from around the globe every few years.  But, after her 65th reunion, she told me she wouldn't continue.  "Crossing the deceased off the list on a daily basis is depressing," she told me.  "Besides, these people are so old, one of them stood up to sing our class song and couldn't remember the words.  It's no fun anymore.  I'm done!"
By Friday mom was short of breath, taken to emergency and the hospital by ambulance with everyone fearing a heart attack.  She endured a battery of tests.  The doctors found both her lungs and heart to be in great shape.  She likely had a drug reaction.  All she talked about was getting out in time for her next rehearsal.
I'm reminded of a quote I heard not long ago.  "People don't die of disease; they die of loneliness and a loss of purpose."  The change in my mom is palpable.  She got a new job and she loves it.  I told her that the family is expecting her to leave us a bundle now that she's Broadway bound.  She told me not to hold my breath: she's considering the ballet!

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In the years has been online, we’ve received hundreds of e-mails from visitors asking questions about legal documents, how to start retirement planning in their 50's, as well as advice on traveling with grandpa and the kids and making everyone happy.   We’ve also received personal stories of triumph and tragedy including the creative, often humorous ways people cope with stress, relationships, balancing career and family, 70 hour work weeks, job loss and the "agony and defeat" they encountered starting a new company.   In our newsletter, I periodically share stories about my glorious 86 year old mother and have named a collection after her.  This is YOUR SPACE.  Ask for advice.  Share stories.  I love your e-mails. It's simple.  Just click here!