We get here, and Lou is singing. His caregiver Polly is waiting for the chorus when he takes a breath, so she can feed him. His pal Ethel watches him like a hawk so he doesn’t go full throttle, piss off the other diners and make trouble for them in their once grand, now fading old-age home. I think she is crazy in love with him, but that’s another story.
Lou’s song is a mash-up between a 1940’s pop tune and a keening Jewish lament. He stops singing and says, bingo, when I suggest it. Polly slips a fork of smoked turkey into his open mouth. Ethel insists, he needs to eat.
Lou is my friend Naomi’s beloved Dad. A few years prior, when her Mom, the woman he adored for 60 years, died after 7 wild years of dementia, Naomi was afraid the grief would kill him, but I’m here to tell you that this mystical, irresistible, old man is plugged into a swirling, whirling world, and he is still singing.
Lou chews slowly and smiles wide, a real dazzler. He has a great set of teeth, and he flashes them, a lot. Everyone at the table is entranced. This is the story of a man who has always been loved.
What’s the most important thing in life? I demand. Lou’s eyes shine because he knows the truth. Books. I am reminded that his room is lined, from ceiling to floor, in soft and hard covers. Ethel snorts. She’s deeply impressed by his brains, but she survived a holocaust and food is more important.
At 96, Lou can sing up to six hours a day, with breaks to chat, nap, pour over words and enjoy a tasty snack. Sometimes, Naomi wonders what it all means, but then he pats her hand, cracks a smile and she throws her head back and laughs. Lou’s darling daughter has learned a lot from his flow.
Read more about Lou and Ethel in Part 2: I Am Stronger than Most Men.
Photos courtesy of the man himself. I cannot thank you enough for your trust.
Help me invite a senior pal for lunch. No amount is too little, no amount is too much.
GOOD NEWS FLASH: I just read this fascinating look at the causes of addiction and it is an exciting reminder that the connection we share is enormously good for our health. Read it here and love each other now.
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