Show me the way to go home
I'm tired and I wanna go to bed
I had a little drink about an hour ago
And it's gone right to my head
Wherever I may roam
On land or sea or form
You can always hear me singing this song
Show me the way to go home
(1925 Jimmy Campbell and Reg Connelly)
Ceil and Marie are sisters, ninety five and ninety one respectively. Memory is fading for both and conversations can be a tad uneven at times. In these present days when it’s hard to remember much of the life that’s been lived, sometimes grace intervenes.
When we arrived Aunt Ceil was cantankerously sweet as she greets us, a pocketbook firmly attached to her arm. Mom calls out, ”My son, my son.” It’s been such a very long time since she has used the name Jeff. But I do not find this hard or troubling to accept at all. As I’ve said before, when she no longer knows I’m her son, I will go visit as her friend. That will be enough for what she needs.
On this particular trip, I decided to bring along my rinky dink portable piano.It has a lousy touch and the sound is not that great. I cringe every time I play that thing, but since we had to be outside and it can be powered by batteries it was the best solution at hand.
There used to be a time when the mere mention of any word in conversation would launch Marie into song. But that spontaneity has been slowly quieted by the years of Dementia. I set up the piano and started to play. Mom began singing along to words that suddenly became familiar. She would applaud after each piece was done and if someone was talking, there’d be some shushing…. Shhhhhhhh. After about three songs, one of them broke into Show Me The Way to Go Home. I’d play a few more, only to be nudged by Ceil or Marie to sing Show Me The Way To Go Home again. This happened four or five times, and I just kept playing the song, whenever they wanted it. Aunt Ceil offered up some alternative lyrics from her days with Uncle Herb. “Way me the show to go home. I’m bed and I wanna go to tired.”
When they reached the third line, both would put on their drunk faces and slur the lyrics. “I haz a little dink about an hour ago and ish gone right to my head. '' And oh how very pleased with themselves they were. We’d finish the song and then move on to another. I probably played a dozen or so during our visit, always returning to the morning’s favorite. During the final Show Me The Way To Go Home, Mom got a head start on her sister Ceil, who was about a half a song behind. It was a two person round, that wasn’t. I couldn’t decide who to accompany as I kept looking back and forth at those two half giggling at each other.
In the days since, I have wondered why they kept returning to that song? You can’t really ask them anymore, because they probably don’t know. Maybe there is comfort in those seven simple words of the title. A simple message that after ninety plus years reminds them that they are indeed tired and wanna go home, wherever “home” might be for them. Perhaps they remembered a time of being lost or were away longer than they desired. Is that how it feels as they cannot recall so much of their own lives? It was not a directive, maybe more like a request. Could anyone answer that question? Can anyone show them? As they sang, they would look, even seeming to search. Singing from their hearts as they asked again and again to “show me the way to go home.” I shall never think of this song the same again. For someday I will be the one asking someone to show me...the way to go home.
September 2021 - Jeff Raught