“Beep, Beep, Beep”, my alarm clock blares, and I roll out of an indistinguishable hotel bed — sheets white, pillows varying levels of fluffy, and traces of bleach linger in my nostrils. I exit my room, look left and right. I have no idea which way the elevator is. I walk right; nope vending. I turn around. It is really disconcerting not knowing where one is or how to leave. I wonder how similar this feeling is to the one of waking up in long term care. I make a mental note of the importance of signage. Against the hum of the elevator I remember yesterday, it was such a good show, we met so many amazing people and the discussion on the bus was fascinating, I think we pulled into the hotel only 3 or 4 hours ago. The doors open and I scan the breakfast room — stranger, stranger, stranger… friendly face! I walk over to a few of our crew who have assembled earlier than I. Jeseph is there on his laptop making sure this whole thing doesn’t self destruct and Dr. Bill Thomas is finishing a plate of eggs and potatoes. I scan the buffet. I decided long ago to set my expectations for breakfast at Fruit Loops and at 60 some cities and counting I have yet to be disappointed. As I finish my cereal Kavan comes in flushed from a run with a handful of foraged greens. We all have our little rituals that make the tour feel like home.
Load in is like a choreographed dance. With exceeding patience and kindness Robbie has taught us all our parts. I am not sure if we would actually qualify as helpful yet but we are getting there. I finish setting up the lobby and leave it in the capable hands of Jude and Diane. I rush backstage to prep for ‘Disrupt Dementia’. Samite is doing scales, Nate is tuning his guitars and cora, and Jenn walks back and forth reciting her lines. We all come together and attune, another ritual. We think about the shows before and we show up right here right now to be with this audience.
On stage I drink it in, every audience has a flavor, a felt sense. Every show is a conversation between what they have brought and what we have brought. This audience buzzes with warmth and laughter, this is going to be a great show. We go on a journey together through the joys and the sorrows that come with life in general and dementia in particular. I feel the audience’s heart break as they hear stories that hit close to home, and I feel the audience swell with us in the hope and possibility that it can be different and we can make it so. The best part comes next: we head out to the lobby together. Different parts of each of our stories touch different audience members and they find us in kind. Together we connect on what we share and learn from each others story — eyes are rarely dry.
We break for food and then it is time for ‘Life’s Most Dangerous Game’. Boy does Bill know how to put on a show. Nate and Namarah add their artistry to weave together something truly indescribable. I sit in the back, I have seen the show scores of times and each time it touches me. Near the end I look over at Jeseph and we say the last lines along with Bill.
“Although we rarely think of it, there will come a day and an hour when we will breathe our last. And the question is: on that day and in that hour what will those who know and love you best what will they say of you? On that day and in that hour will they say of you that you drank from the cup of life and drained it to its dregs?”
We mime a cheers to each other. The audience goes back to their lives and we do the load-in-dance in reverse. We are back on the bus, singing, laughing, talking and I look around and know that my answer to Bill’s last question of the night is a resounding yes.
The next opportunity to experience the ChangingAging Tour comes at the 2018 Eden Alternative International Conference in Atlanta, May 3-5, 2018. There are only 14 days left for early registration — For more information about how the conference and how to register, click here.