Dancing, even without music, is always a good thing, as these two girls showed at the Vatican earlier this year while Pope Francis greeted people during his general audience. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Harry McAvoy: Music always strikes the right notes in life

By  Harry McAvoy
  • November 13, 2020

On a recent Saturday morning I revisited simpler times. After returning home from morning Mass the Bride and I were welcomed at our front door by Rose Anne, our eldest, and her two boys Jack and Beckett. Rose Anne had dropped by for a visit and had managed to rouse her sisters, Clare, Emma and Hope, from their beds. 

As we chatted, Jennifer, the Bride, played a song called “Happy” by Pharrell Williams and began to dance with our oldest grandson.  Jack rose to the occasion and shook his body to the delight of all. In the spirit of joy I chose “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night, and the three of us danced and laughed. We then picked “Locomotion” by Little Eva and our daughters joined in. The party had begun.

Jack was smiling from ear to ear, and dropped to the floor and began to squirm.  For a moment I thought, I could do that, but then thought better remembering my rheumatoid arthritis. I yelled over the music to the Bride, “I could get down, but it would be hell to get back up.” She gives me the look, forbidding me from even thinking such a thought.

This is the good stuff. I watch as the Bride enjoys her grandson’s every move and she laughs with happiness. It occurs to me this morning, I don’t so much need a great memory as a playful heart.

Our four-year-old disappears to another room with an aunt in tow, so I pick a new tune, “Mack the Knife” by Bobby Darin. In spite of my wonky memory I am back in 1982 at a bar in New York City, a one-minute walk from Times Square. It is just around the corner from the Covenant House New York Faith Community, where I spent six weeks learning how to use a breviary to pray morning, evening and night prayer, and also how to work with runaway and homeless youth. Covenant House is also where I met the Bride. I tell people I saved her from the street, and she frowns. Oh how I have enjoyed the ride.

I suppose that is some of what God wants for us. Enjoy the music, dance with the ones you love, even when you can no longer squirm on the floor. Do your best not to let your troubles, whether it is memory loss or some other malady, define you, and witness to the Good News wherever God plants you, for as long as you can.

As Rose Anne prepares to head to the farmer’s market with her sons and sisters, I scoop Becket from his car seat. My daughters protest in unison, which makes me laugh. I pick a tune from Abba called “Chiquitita” that takes me back to Copenhagen in 1979. As my baby grandson and I move to the music, he spits up on grandpa’s shoulder; what joy, what happiness.

Finally my eldest retrieves her youngest and I realize our impromptu party is winding down and my fellow revellers are moving on. As they walk out the door my mood changes and I pick a final tune called “Hello in There” by John Prine. I first heard this tune playing on “the Colonel’s” cassette recorder as we travelled across India and into Sri Lanka in 1981. As I listen, I reflect on how I have been generously blessed and how when you love God and others somehow the dance continues and you never really dance alone.

The Bride said goodbye to her daughters and is looking for me — it is time for chores. I wonder for a moment where I can hide, but after 36 years of marriage she always finds me.

Thank you, Father, for the music that takes me back, in spite of memory loss, to where I once was and helps make me happy, where I am now. I am a man who loves God, the Bride, our six children and the ones they love. I am also a person who still contributes whenever I can, and enjoys a good party, wherever I can find one.    

(McAvoy has been sharing his journey of dealing with memory loss with Register readers.)

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