Some eighteen months ago a good community friend invited me to attend Memory Matters and observe first hand what it is like to be a volunteer in a memory day care facility. Bob is that good friend and every Tuesday morning at 10 am, while juice and cookies are being served, he leads the social day care program with “Bob and Mike in the morning hour”. The program is designed to be welcoming, amusing, informative, musical and always interactive. We usually include some topical news, thought provoking subject matter, jokes, riddles, historical trivia and live music and singing. Bob always starts by expressing a warm welcome and saying, “its another beautiful day here on Hilton Head Island”! For us it’s always beautiful inside Memory Matters, even on one of the rare days when it rains!
Let me tell you a little about Bob, a modest man who both the staff and participants regard with trust and no small amount of affection. Bob has devoted over four years to volunteering at Memory Matters.
The reason for volunteering at Memory Matters is simple. Bob wanted to give the caregivers some time to themselves. He started volunteering about three months after his mother -in-law, who was a “club member” (participant) for two years passed away. He realized how much he and his wife appreciated the time they had to do errands or just relax while Mom was at “the club”.
Bob was in the US Navy for 22 years. He was a navy pilot flying off aircraft carriers and is a Vietnam vet. With his family he lived in Japan for three years while on sea duty. He also made two deployments to the Mediterranean followed by two tours of duty in DC and was able to attend the Naval War College in Newport RI. Bob’s last flying job was as the commanding officer of a squadron on the USS Nimitz.
After Bob retired from the navy he worked as a civilian contractor supporting the Naval Air Systems Command.
Through my eyes as a more recent volunteer I have witnessed the wisdom and life skills that Bob has brought to Memory Matters; both so important to the continuing success of the dementia day care programs.
Bob’s passion, enthusiasm and leadership skills are something we volunteers can look up to and seek to follow.
Last Tuesday Bob encouraged a discussion on our dreams and the scientific basis for why some people dream often and others not at all. Then there were some good jokes which he always first tests on his lovely wife Carrie to see if they are suitable. Needless to say some don’t make the cut!
Mixed in with the stories were some famous birthdays. It is always fun to discuss famous people with the participants and our preparatory research often leads to amusing or surprising revelations. Last Tuesday was the late Queen Victoria’s birthday and we learned she proposed to her husband Albert, raised nine children and was barely five feet tall while her girth was all of fifty inches! How was that Royal trivia known? Well, her bloomers sold at auction a few years back and the dimension was revealed!
We love for the participants to answer our questions, quizzes and contribute their own ideas to our wide ranging topics. If they can solve our riddles and come up with the right answer to our crazy “tall stories”, that is even more rewarding. Engaging conversation is everything.
We also like to surprise people, especially Melissa, our Program Director! Melissa was just back from a short but enjoyable trip of a lifetime to Salzburg-Austria. She has always been a huge fan of “The Sound of Music” and was able to retrace the making of the movie in Salzburg. So Bob and your correspondent decided to welcome her home with our own rendition of “Do Re Mi” from the Sound of Music. The participants stepped up to the plate and gave Melissa a rousing performance of this famous song.
It was also Bob Dylan’s birthday and we were able to précis his life story from dropping out of school at the University of Minnesota, to his ground breaking folk music, which in later years rewarded him with Grammy’s, an Oscar, a Pulitzer Prize and the highest US civilian award: The Presidential Medal of Freedom. Then we played and sang “It ain’t me babe” as a Memory Matters tribute to the great man.
Not content, we kept singing, including “It’s A Wonderful World”, “King of the Road”and “Side by Side” the latter dating back to 1927, and all of us “young people” seemed to know the words by heart!
“Side by Side” is perhaps a very appropriate song for us to regularly sing, because we spend so much time in the company of some really wonderful human beings and in truth we the volunteers and our participants are together going through life:
“Side by Side”.
So the busy first hour was concluded. The rest of the day too was action packed, but I need to wrap-up this post and will save that story for another day.
I’m just thankful that Bob introduced me to volunteering and helps me to work by his side.
Please share this if you believe it could help someone.