When we kids in Minneapolis complained about a rainy summer day which kept us from playing outdoors (yes, we did that) Aunt Ruth would smile and remind us: "This is the day the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it."
And with chores all completed (yes, we did that), this woman who so lived her faith without being preachy, would bring out an "Authors" card game, or a Monopoly board game or a jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes, she'd teach us (the boys, too), how to knit, crochet, mend and darn. We took turns reading aloud. We sang a lot, too, with Aunt Ruth or Aunt June at the piano. Music can bring generations together and also give life to a brain that seems almost lifeless. More on that in a moment.
But first, some out loud rejoicing over this perhaps coolest-ever New York summer -- even if August gets steamy, and especially as the West Coast has the driest, hottest summer ever. Maybe say some prayers about that. And repent (yup, people once did that) about making an inordinate fuss about a rainy weekend.
And I sure wish everyone had an Aunt Ruth and even more, immediate and extended family members who were not a continent or ocean away. And we might, if our social gurus believed, as did the late Margaret Mead, that these connections are vital to human well-being and problems or priorities that divide need to be overcome. Communication and relationship skills would be learned from toddlerhood on out. "Sharing the talk," is a cardinal rule. Repeat that please.
And "the family rich," which has nothing to do with economics, would include "the family poor" in their circles. Indeed, Aunt Ruth was the sister of my dad's brother's wife June, part of a large extended family which could not have been more welcoming to any and all of the in-laws.
And they all got along. in part, likely due to their tee-totaling habits. Now the Paper of Record, in its unprecedented drive to make marijuana legal, is right to claim that alcohol is more dangerous, in its potential fueling of all manner of anti-social, violent or regrettable behaviors. Attention should be paid, but do we need another legal intoxicant even if its effect is reportedly more"laid back"? The late Dr. Lee Salk (brother of Jonas) often so rightly advised on NBC's health spots, that society needs treatment so people don't need to over-drink or take mind-altering drugs. But nobody picked up that unpopular torch when this visionary doctor died so prematurely of cancer.
Yes, this a kind of a ramble, in part due to impending cataract surgery anxiety, even if nowadays there's little risk or down time and there's a very good result. How unlike the most dreaded elder disorder I call "brain failure," with no known cause, no cure or real medical treatment. And so few, even in the "aging fields," know about Michael Rossato-Bennett's Sundance Film Festival award-winning documentary "Alive Inside, Memory and Music" shown briefly at the Sunshine movie house. And I only learned of this documentary, which most powerfully tells how social worker Dan Cohen's equipping three nursing home brain-failure patients with iPods of their favorite music, brought incredibly positive response from those who were usually non-responsive, distressed and even violent. These programs now bless 489 nursing homes in 42 states, but there's a long way to go to make this a universal and required fading-brain treatment.
There are DVD's, and you Internet users, do search "Alive Inside, Music and Memory," for more information, and get behind this musical miracle. It can be done if enough of us try.