My little sister, Lyn, left Australia and settled in Oklahoma over thirty years ago. Her hometown, and her home, quickly became familiar places for mum. Lyn tells how every time mum went to visit her she would arrive from the airport and don an apron and claim the kitchen as hers for the duration of her stay. This was mum’s way of helping. She would shop and cook all Lyn’s favourite foods and leave the biscuit tins full of Short- bread and Hedgehog. Lyn says now that this annoyed her, this taking over of her space and to some extent the independence she claimed when she moved so far away.
We grew up to the musicals of Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein. South Pacific was my favourite one but Oklahoma was my second favourite only later to be replaced by The Sound of Music. I saw the film version of Oklahoma many times and could sing most of the songs.
When Oklahoma – the stage production – came to Geelong, I asked mum if she would like to go. Her immediate response was a quick, “no”. I had expected that. Her excuse was that dad would not enjoy the night out, that his leg would twitch and that he couldn’t see anyway.
My response was that he would enjoy the music and when I asked dad if he would like to go, his response was “yes” and that it would be fun to have a night out and that he hadn’t seen Oklahoma for years.
Together, we persuaded mum that it would be fun and that if she wasn’t enjoying it, we could come home at half time.
Apparently music is one of the last things that people with Alzheimer’s forget.
By the time we got to the theatre mum was looking forward to the night. She had even dressed up a bit. Dad said, when we got in the car to drive there, that they had had an early dinner and not one fight.
“Fancy having a musical called Oklahoma,” she said. “And fancy having it here, in Geelong!”
She bought a program. “I will save this for Lyn when she comes out. She will love to see it. And I am sure she will know some of these people,” she said, pointing to the small pictures of the cast and crew.
I don’t think mum recognised the musical we saw last Friday night with the musical we all knew so well, but she sat through the whole performance, rocking from side to side, keeping the beat of all the songs with her hands and tapping on the program she bought to show Lyn.