Monday, November 18, 2013
My father sang along while watching Pavarotti to Bixio's "Mamma," in Italian! This is short of a miracle!
It was nearly 3:00 p.m. while the asparagus were cooking for dinner. My father was listening quietly to Pavarotti. Suddenly, through the usual sobs while listening to songs from his home country of Yugoslavia, he sang along with Pavarotti to Mamma in Italian! I couldn't believe my ears! How did he know the words? Yes, we had Italian friends and neighbors since childhood from whom he may have been exposed to the song. I, too, am familiar with Mamma, but don't know Italian except for my feeble attempts to learn the language. Or he'd heard it before the war as Yugoslavia shared a border with Italy.
An 85 year-old with vascular dementia, my father sits quietly and calmly with conversations of yes, no, sure, with an occasional simple question. He recognizes all of us. He offers very little conversation but can play melodies he'd known since he was young, including Christmas songs, on the harmonica which in itself is truly surprising considering his inability to express himself verbally. I think of his post-war days serving in the British army while stationed in Germany where he met my mother; both playing the accordion together and with family. Was Mamma known in post-war Germany? I have to doubt it, but who can verify?
What I have learned about dementia (my mother too had Alzheimers) is that the medical community doesn't yet understand the complexity of the disease. Most agree that short-term memory seems to be affected first, and long-term memory remains somewhat intact until the disease is more advanced. So, it wouldn't be surprising if he'd remember his youth, but Italian?
Although the mystery remains, I will treasure sharing this moment of tremendous joy with my totti.