Monday, April 16, 2012

step by step, the longest march

I arrived to visit my dad on Friday April 13 in mid-afternoon. After declaring emphatically that he didn’t want to go for a walk (apparently he had refused earlier in the day too), dad eventually consented to go as far as the activity room to read the paper. We sang (My life flows on, and "Kisses sweeter than wine" with lyrics modified to reflect his life with mum, among other things). 

After supper, dad became quite excited about the idea of getting out for a walk (“we can send for those books & photos later”) so I got him dressed and headed (with the walker) down then out towards the driveway entrance off Major St. near College. It took two rest stops outbound and three on the return, as well as an uncounted number of verses of:

Step by step, the longest march
Can be won, can be won.
Many stones can form an arch
Singly none, singly none.
And by union what we will
Can be accomplished still.
Drops of water turn a mill.
Singly none, singly none.

(This is great walking song, which my sister Margie says is attributed to the foreword from a 19th century miners' union constitution according to liner notes from a Pete Seeger album. There is some different history with a great performance by John McCutcheon here).

After our return (the whole excursion to the corner of the driveway and back took about an hour, maybe 40-60 meters total traveled) he wanted to sing more, so we did. After repeating How can I keep from Singing, he remarked “you seem to have recovered pretty well from your experience (long pause) on the boat” – this from someone who an hour earlier had been unable to remember my brother Danny’s name or mine, or even the word “brother” to describe our relationship (“You two, same mother, right?"). Uncharacteristically, I was not wearing any sort of political t-shirt or even a button as a clue, and my boat experience would be neither in his immediate memory, nor in his well-laid-down distant memories, and there are no immediate print cues around either (I later printed this account out for him to read, or have read to him). The song was of course connected to my boat experience for me (but not so much for him), but not very recently -- it had been sung much more recently at mum's memorial).

Dad’s acceptance of a walk (or any activity) seems to be conditioned by luck as well as stubbornness, but as my brother Danny points out, stubbornness helps create opportunities for luck. As luck (¿?) would have it, dad turns out to be related to some stubborn people.

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