Even she was deathly afraid to step out of the vehicle and enter the premises. “Why did I even set this up?”
“But I must take courage. Follow through with this commitment. For their sakes. My sons. If I turn and run, they will learn to do the same.”
So she placed her foot on the frozen parking lot. Then the other. Slowly. Carefully. Like she was walking some sort of plank. How would this end? With failure? Success? Would they like us? Will we irritate them?
It was December, 1998. With her guitar case in hand, she helped the youngest of her four boys out of the car to enter the local nursing home. “We will sing the songs we practiced at home. Remember to smile.”
They seemed to like us. We seemed to like them.
So we went again. And again. And again. First, monthly. Then, twice a month. We were encouraged to come weekly.
“Just come and read children’s stories to them. Their piano pieces don’t have to be perfect. Have them play here, like they were practicing at home!” encouraged our new friend/Staff-Activity Director.
So we did. The youngest was three years old at the beginning. He didn’t have to do much of anything, except show up and let them hug him.
But this three year old did more than that. He sang with his brothers. Solos? Probably. Quite honestly, I can’t remember all he did at the start. But the residents loved whatever he did. They loved him. His youthfulness gave them life.
Watch “Canadian Brass – Carol Of The Bells” on YouTube
Canadian Brass – Carol Of The Bells: https://youtu.be/0xsb1xFH52Q
As this three year old grew, his program contribution also grew. He joined his older brothers in piano solos, four part accapello harmonies.
He joined the brass ensemble we engineered to sound like, (akhem), Canadian Brass! (We played off their music, we must have sounded like them, right!
Blue Grass developed when a banjo and harmonica was acquired by the next older brother. After he had his piano, recorder and trombone practicing under his belt!
The next oldest brother was interested in violin. This was way beyond me. Don’t know anything about how to read its music, let alone, play!
But he did it!
And THEY loved it. The residents.
“Enunciate and project!” Your voice, that is. When reading stories, reciting child-sized poetry, I reminded while rehearsing. “We want them to be able to hear your every word.”
Yes. No longer was I fearfully entering the nursing home with just a simple song. I was now organizing Hymns for Him programs, lasting over one hour a piece.
Just an opportunity for each of the four sons (and Mom and Dad) to play instruments, sing some harmonies and read to them. With a bit of a theme to each program.
What was happening to “the audience?”
Marge and Miriam, dorm mates – as they referred to themselves – would not let the boys leave for home without a visit to their “dorm room” for some treats. Cans of pop, candy and cookies would regularly accompany our return home.
A birthday cake was even ordered and given to us on one occasion!
We invited them to our home for a birthday party one Minnesota spring day. But, they declined. We learned that leaving the security of their ‘home’ was more than they could sometimes bear.
So we brought the party to them! Those Ludvigson Boys had a water balloon fight outside the windowed activity room at the Villa. Picturesque, to Marge and Miriam. And to many of their friends who joined them to watch the show! And don’t you think those Ludvigson Boys enjoyed the water balloons? Yes, they did!
Weeks at the Villa turned into years. Some residents came. And went. New residents became new friends. Some were easier to warm up to, than others.
Towards the end of our time there, we had a ‘hard- to – befriend’ friend. But she was always there, when we came. I so much wanted to soften her with Love.
When the day came that we had to announce to our Villa friends that we were moving, and had to say a final goodbye, she began to cry. Big tears. Truly dissappointed.
As grieved as I was to say goodbye, what joy I felt to see her, once ‘hard – to – befriend, now candidly showing her softness. Love. Relationship. It was there.
And there was Vxxt, who could not hear anything. But she shook her head when we played/sang a sour note.
Bxxe. She came stretched out on a wheeled lounger. After every song, “What’s wrong everybody! Don’t you like it!”
Then of course, on one of those nights, showing up to do a program, when there I felt like we shouldn’t go because of a boy’s naughty behavior on the homefront. “How can we encourage them?” I announced before we left.
Only to hear our ‘well-aquainted-with-my-boys’ male/resident/friend, ask quite publicly, with a smirk on his face,
“What’s wrong, ____, have you been into mischief today!”
Silent. Laughter. Unquestionably. Suppose. To. Be. There. Tonight.
Although it took quite literally ‘blood, sweat and tears’ to prepare and perform at the Villa each week, to me – the TYRANT – it was worth it.
The experience and the relationships greatly outweighs the multitude of ‘trauma’ in the program construction.
Especially now. Christmas. Even though I can still remember one sweet resident complain as we began ‘Silent Night,’:
“Oh no, not that one again…”
I loved them. They taught me so much. And I hope never to forget those lessons. Or them.
Life is Lovelier With Lace…My Lace Counselor works with me, sometimes when the rest of the family is in bed. In December, with the Villa Christmas programs added to the hustle and bustle of prepping at home, the late hours up lace crocheting did me better than sleep. That’s just the way it is! For me.
With lace, the Villa and Christmas on my mind…Merry Christmas!
~ Debbie Ludvigson
The Ludvigson Lace Lady
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