Aug 1, 2012

Dotty Sang and My Heart Soared

Does music unlock the deep in Alzheimer's patients?

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

I never heard my mother sing. Not until May 2, 2010. My mother was 93 years old.

It happened during an airing of the television show TREME on HBO. Out of the clear blue sky Dotty started singing a song entitled, Ghost of a Chance.

Not only did Dotty sing the words, she started to sing out in front of the song. She sang the words before Antoine (Wendell Pierce) a main character on the show sang the words.

Later, I couldn't believe or maybe comprehend what had happened. So I decided to do some research and see if I could find the song on YouTube.

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Ghost of a Chance was written in 1932. It was first sung and made famous by Billie Holiday. Later it was modernized and re-recorded by Frank Sinatra.

I was so stunned I kinda short circuited. I asked Dotty, do you know that song? She said yes. I asked, do you know the name and she said no.

Later I found the song and I brought Dotty over to the computer and said listen to this. As Antoine started singing I said to Dotty -- sing it. She started singing -- "but I don't stand a ghost of a chance with you." Then she started singing out in front of the words.

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The second time around Dotty sang in perfect tune and in front of Antoine (before he sang, she was following the music) -- "I love you oh so madly and I don't stand a ghost of a chance with you."

I asked Dotty again do you know that song? She said, was that Frank Sinatra? Remarkable. It wasn't Frank but I assumed that is who she remembered singing the song.

I don't know if anyone other than me knows this. Dotty sings in a much higher (not louder) voice than her conversation voice. She has a really sweet voice.

I was only ready on the path of Joy when that happened. But, I don't think I felt my heart swell up like it did when Dotty sang that night.

Months later I found out that my grandmother, Dotty's mother, sang in public at the Lobster club in Philadelphia. Dotty also told me that her mother would lay in bed with her and sing to her. She had never spoken about this around me before 2010.

From that point on I started putting the Swing Music channel on the television. Every once in a while Dotty would start belting out some obscure song. She also sang many of the popular songs, many that I  knew.

Every time Dotty sang I had a wonderful, hard to describe feeling come over me.

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Dotty proved to me that the deeply forgetful are full of feelings, and are much more complete then most people can imagine.

If you read this article carefully you will find the message that I am trying to deliver.

Does music unlock the deep in Alzheimer's patients? Pay close attention as Dotty rocks out in this video. She was already close to entering the severe stage of Alzheimer's.

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Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room