“Happy Birthday”

It happened again.   Bo cried when he heard people singing — this time, Happy Birthday.

It was a birthday dinner party for a friend.  Eight of us ate  in the dining room, but Bo was in the kitchen with his caregiver because he had a very bad day and we knew he wouldn’t be comfortable with the group. In fact, he just wanted to put his head on the table.    The day was  rainy and depressing, and that has an effect on him.  He didn’t get up until about 3, then  slept on the sofa when he came downstairs.  He was so weak that he finished eating his dinner only by being fed, but then slowly ate a dish of ice cream.

During this time,  Jon  sat with him and talked to him about Bo’s own birthday the day before as they looked at two birthday cards he had received.

They were still sitting at the kitchen table when we sang Happy Birthday to my friend.   I could see into the kitchen from my seat and I realized that Bo’s shoulders were shaking so  I  went to him.  He was sobbing.  Again, music had moved him to tears.  This time it was people singing Happy Birthday off key.

I knelt over him and touched his face.  “What’s the matter, Bo?”

“I don’t know,” he said  sadly, his head hanging almost to the table.

“Does the singing make you sad?”

“I don’t know.”

I hugged him and rubbed his arm.

Later,  as we analyzed the situation,  we wondered if perhaps he thought we were singing to him.  Or is he just emotional, confused, and moved by certain songs?  Since then, I’ve again tried turning on music as he sits or lies on the sofa, have also tried to get him interested in a Christmas special on TV, but mostly  he doesn’t seem to notice.   He has always loved music, especially classical,  but his reaction to it is quiet.  When he was more mobile,  if I left music on for him, he would turn it off, mostly because of his tinnitus condition.

Another mystery of Alzheimer’s.


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3 Responses to “Happy Birthday”

  1. dianne says:

    Such a double edged sword is this disease…..

  2. frangipani says:

    The singing might have triggered a memory from long ago, that cannot be articulated. Sounds and emotional memories may be “hooked” together that way, just as smells sometimes are.

  3. Mary Smith says:

    As you say, it’s another of Alzheimer’s mysteries – of which there are many. Maybe, one day researchers will be able to unravel more of those mysteries.

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