Every few months I entertain at the monthly birthday party for a local retirement home. A few residents can move about on their own but most are in wheelchairs and need two hearty hands to push them to the party room. Still more arrive from “memory care” and often sit there glassy-eyed and motionless. Until the music starts. Then something happens that is kind of a miracle. Bodies come alive. Just a little. For a little while. I see a shimmer of life come into their eyes and maybe a foot tapping along. Some go all rock ‘n roll and start clapping and singing along. However this musical alchemy appears, I’m grateful to see it.

Then we acknowledge the birthday revelers. After all this celebration is for them. I read their names from a list as the sheet cake, decorated with swirls of green and pink icing, is hoisted before them and their picture is taken. The first on the list is Claire. Her name has a big “108” next to it. I am almost ready to introduce “Claire, in Room 108,” when the assistant, dizzy with excitement, proclaims that Claire is 108 years old!

Claire is the oldest person I have ever met. And I have met a lot of older people but she takes the cake. No pun. The only words I can muster after I learn 108 is NOT her room number are not especially inspired… “What vitamins do you take, darlin'”?  Because Claire is beautiful and doesn’t look a day over 75. Granted she is confined to a wheelchair where she lists to one side as an aid gently spoons birthday cake into her mouth. But she is still here, breathing and showing us what life looks like on this day, in this place, at this age.

I wrote a song about birthdays. These kind of birthdays…where we get more reflective than exhilarated. When the specter of time passing begins to weigh a little heavier on our hearts. We may celebrate “another spin around the sun” but as the years fly by, it strikes me that every day is a kind of birthday and good enough reason to say “thank you” in some way or another.

“And Happy Birthday To You” is one of the lucky thirteen tunes on my new ukulele CD, Smile, Smile, Smile.” My buddy, Craig Fundyga, adds just the right splash of drums AND vibes to give this song a sassy island vibe. And with the ukulele and bass, it’s a real “feel-good” ode to, shall we say, mortality.  Yes I’m adding one more song to the pantheon of birthday tunes but this one has an added caveat: “The more candles on your cake, the brighter you light shines.”

So shine on…

CD Progress Report:

The music and artwork are now at the CD processing plant in New Jersey. I think I love New Jersey. Hopefully I will have the album in hand by early July. “Smile, Smile, Smile” will be available for sale on my website and online stores like iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby later in the summer. I will keep you posted.



5 Responses

  1. Cali
    | Reply

    thank you cali.
    this whole aging thing is rough.
    to feel it with equanimity is interesting.
    to try to not long for less pain and more ease of movement.
    but to accept and just be fine with ‘what is.’ it is….well, interesting.
    but ultimately, what choice do we have? one day i will wish for what
    i have today. it puts a whole different spin on things.
    i have worked in the hospitals and reluctantly been a patient
    in a rehab/rest home and have seen it all. and I bless you for
    your devotion to giving a touch of comfort and love to people
    there. i thank you for all of them.

  2. Cali
    | Reply

    this blog couldn’t have been more timely . Yesterday my group of seniors , “the Uketones” played at a nursing home – not an organized party , but there was a birthday person and as we were packing up we discovered this and sang to her. So many of our group expressed to me later that it gives them such a good feeling to watch the people as they tap their fingers to the music ,sing along and sometimes just smile and nod their heads . I just want to thank you again for inspiring me to start my group.. hopefully someday we’ll get a video made that I can send.

  3. Cali
    | Reply

    Thank you Anne and Charlotte. Our CC Strummers inspire me to be a better musician… And human being. Thank you for being part of our ukulele ohana!

  4. Charlotte
    | Reply

    You are just a bright spot in anyone’s day and I look forward to your new CD. We so enjoy your last CD and your cheerful uplifting tunes. Thank you, from Char T.

  5. anne geffner
    | Reply

    i hope you will have a stack of your CD’s that you can sell yourself – to your students. life has taken me else where….. hope to be back at class next monday.

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