We stayed in quaint Port Washington, tasted wine in scenic Cedarburg, and enjoyed drinks and shopping at the Bay Shore Town Center and Historic Third Ward district in Milwaukee. Of course no trip to Wisconsin at the end of June would be complete without a trip to the greatest music festival in the world, Summerfest on Milwaukee’s downtown lakefront. We saw great local bands, as well as two great sets by Aloe Blacc and Big Head Todd and The Monsters.
I also reconnected with two musician friends that I had played with in my mid-twenties. My old bass player and I got to see our former guitar player in his country band, The Rocky Oster Mountain Band. After his show, we spent the rest of the evening checking out other bands and laughing over old band stories. Even after all these years, it felt like we had only been apart a couple of months.
The only part of the trip that was difficult, was visiting my uncle in a nursing home. Last year, I had spent a few days with him at his house and although not totally self-sufficient, with weekly home care visits, he was doing pretty well on his own. One morning we sat in his kitchen and listened to his Bose cd player. As the music of Dean Martin and John Williams movie scores filled the house, he talked about how much I loved to listen to music with him when I was a little girl.
“You would ask me to play Elvin and The Chipmunks over and over again,” he laughed.
The last year has not been good to him and when I went to the nursing home the first day, after about ten minutes, he told me he had nothing more to say. Even trying to prod him into telling some of the old stories he loved to tell was unsuccessful. As I left, I asked if he wanted anything from his house.
“I could bring your cd player over and your cds.”
He brightened up just a little. “That would be fine,” he said
The next day, I brought it over and hooked it up. We listened to John Williams’s greatest hits and although last year, he knew every single one, this time around, he only remembered the Superman theme. It was the first time I saw him smile.
By the end of the week, when I came to see him, he asked, “Can somebody please change the cd? And can you go the house to get the rest of them?”
We spent the last morning listening to the soundtracks from The Music Man, Mary Poppins and The King and I. He not only remembered the songs, he remembered who sang them and at times, even sang along, smiling and tapping his feet on the foot guards on his wheelchair.
My vacation usually doesn’t have a theme, but coming home on the plane, I realized this one did. Friends brought together and an older man, depressed, finally feeling some joy. What did it have in common? The power of music. Time for me to get back to playing some myself.