..memories/old and in the making..
Annually, in April, I have traveled upstate to attend the Area Contest and Convention, or AC&C. Like any other large group, we are divided into regions - or areas - with each chorus serving as an independent chapter. Choruses and quartets that make a qualifying score may choose to advance to the International Contest and Convention held in November.
This time of year fills me with equal parts of dread and joy, along with a heaping helping of stress. I'm glad when it arrives, I enjoy when I'm at contest, and I am so very relieved when its over. Right now I'm full of jitters, knowing I'm one night of sleep away from leaving half of my family behind; even if it's just one weekend!
I remember two years ago quite well. Our theme was "Return to Margaritaville". The chorus had done admirably, placing second. It was my first year doing choreography, and our presentation score was the highest it had ever
been! In a chorus with 20 years of history, I considered it quite the accomplishment. And even if my dress was tight on stage - me being five months pregnant at the time - it was hardly noticeable, and I could almost
Our after party was fantastic. The after-after party was better. Even if I had to remain sober, I enjoyed everyone else getting progressively more drunk as we whiled the night away singing random tags and occasionally woodshopping a song (woodshop - to improvise barbershop style harmony). We sing beneath a dome just off of the lobby, which really catches ringing fifths (another term -- when four parts lock a chord, it produces the sound of a fifth note). This dome is at the foot of a grand marble staircase. The effect is very beautiful.
Suddenly, a young couple stopped at the top of the stairs. She was in a flattering, virgin white wedding dress. He was a dashing figure in a tux.
They stared at us.
We stared at them.
Suddenly, someone shouted "Heart of my Heart!" The pitch was blown, and some fifty of us burst into song, wooing this freshly married couple with a classic barbershop ballad. We sang four love songs at their request before the wedding night hearkened. In someone's wedding album is a lovely picture of the couple standing in the middle of this staircase, surrounded by women in straw hats and Hawaiian shirts.
Last year things were distinctly different.
I prepared for the trip as per usual and made arrangements to carpool. I arrived on Thursday, attended the usual boring meeting, and afterwards sought out friends among other choruses. At 9 PM, my husband called to tell me that his father - a terminal cancer patient - was unresponsive. He was already at a Hospice house, thankfully, but they did not expect him to live through the night.
Now, trips cost money, and this one had been particularly pricey since I paid for my baby sister to accompany me. My husband, at first, insisted that I stay since I had already paid for everything. I insisted, more firmly, that the place I needed to be was home, for the benefit of both him and his father. I told him I would rent a car to go home, if need be.
Luckily, a friend of our was available to drive my car the four hours north. He arrived Friday morning, and I returned Friday afternoon. Against all odds, Papa was still alive.
My husband had been Papa's caretaker during his two year battle. He said plainly that he and his father had already had their talks and there was no reason for him to visit Papa when he was already 'gone'. So, just after my arrival, I began to sit with Papa in shifts, tag-teaming my brother-in-law.
I cannot begin to say just how much the pair of us butted heads when it came to Papa's care. My brother-in-law assumed that it was the amount of medication Papa was on that caused him to become unresponsive, and that if we weaned him off of it, Papa would miraculously awaken. We're talking about a man that took 30 to 60mg oxycodones every three hours, with a 15mg chaser if it didn't take effect fast enough -- and still operated normally. This was around the clock, too. My husband had to administer it crushed, via g-tube, through the night. Pain medicine did not effect this man very well.
He was also still receiving nutrition via g-tube. It took a LOT of fighting with my brother-in-law before he agreed to discontinue it.
I feel it necessary to explain that I work with the elderly, work frequently beside hospice, and have witnessed end of life stages more times than I care to count. It was obvious that Papa was at his end of life and ready to move on. He also made it abundantly clear that he did not wish to linger in a vegetative state, which is why I was adamant that his nutrition supplements cease. It was only prolonging a life he did not want.
In any case, that Sunday I planned to relieve my brother-in-law after lunch and stay with Papa through the night. At about 1, he called to speak with me.
"I think I get it now," he said. I was cautious, of course, but prompted him to continue. He explained his feelings; that Papa knew the end was coming and didn't want to burden us, so he made the decision to enter a Hospice House; that he was ready to let Papa go join his wife. I was supportive and agreed to everything, relieved that my brother-in-law had finally come to terms with it. I told him I was leaving soon and hung up.
Five minutes later, he called again. "Papa passed away while I was on the phone with you..."
Isn't it amazing how it works? Papa held on three long days, just waiting for his son to be ready to let him go. Call it divine intervention, or an example of indomitable human spirit.. either way, it moves me every time I think about it.
I called my sister, who remained at the convention to its end. She informed me that we were disqualified. Apparently, we needed 12 people in the chorus. My leaving dropped our numbers to eleven. Oh well. . . I was exactly where I needed to be.
This year brings another death of someone near and dear. The loss of Trixie has affected my chorus, as a group, so very deeply. Her funeral was Tuesday (as I write in the wee hours of Wednesday morning), on the anniversary of Papa's death. Her mass started the very same hour, at 1 PM. It has been a very rough day...
Still, I have things to look forward to. This year will be the last year my baby sister accompanies me to AC&C. She's graduating soon, going off to college. It's also the first for my 8 year old daughter, an avid barbershopper in the making. It's a first for me, too -- my first time competing in a quartet. All in all, I feel so very blessed for the friends I've made, the support we always give eachother, and the opportunities provided to make memories with family so very dear to my heart.
Thursday morning starts a very long, very exciting weekend. Wish me luck. This is how we roll at AC&C. 2010 - Return to Margaritaville. Note the Hawaiian shirt pinned to mah belly; my little man was stylin' before he was born!