To get ready for my 50th birthday this weekend, I wrote my will. (Yeah, I’m taking this whole aging thing really well …)
The do-it-yourself will-writing software provided an option to do specific bequests. This made me realize how few things I own would be of any interest to anyone else, least of all my children. For instance, I have a hefty CD collection which I modestly believe showcases the best music since music began. But my kids have no use for them: in this age of digital downloads, streaming and cloud-based music, they are better used as iridescent DIY craft materials. (I plan to donate them to my local library instead, but that assumes they’ll still have a device that can play them. By then, the Cloud will probably be sentient and download Blue Ivy Carter and North West’s latest hit directly to our eardrums.)
Another element of estate planning is having an advance directive/ health care power of attorney. This not only outlines what level of medical intervention you want but also identifies your health care advocate – the person who’ll honor your wishes and speak for you if you are incapacitated. (Get this done, friends. It’s well worth the peace of mind for you and your family. If you live in Michigan, my employer’s My Voice, My Choice template can guide you through the process. End of PSA.)
This got me thinking: who will be my musical advocate?
I’ve seen what it’s like at my mother’s assisted living facility, which is one of the best in the world. The staff plays music in the common rooms to help stimulate memory and group interaction. They try to pick tunes that are familiar to the largest number of people depending on age group, usually aiming for what was popular during the residents’ young adulthood. My mother’s era would therefore be defined by a lot of Broadway, big bands and Mitch Miller-approved sing-alongs. The last time I visited her, though, Elvis Presley was in the air, as the Greatest Generation moves on and the Baby Boomers move in. I had to wonder if this made her antsy – she never struck me as an Elvis fan – or if she was grateful for the break from Lawrence Welk.
There’s no easy way to accommodate everyone’s personal taste, even when you’re in a room full of mentally acute adults. (As my good friend Gail says, ” I would like to have some control over what I have to hear in the GYM, let alone when I’m lying in a bed in a nursing home someday.”) It’s hard to pin down taste for one person, much less a group. Say you like Elvis: does that mean the Sun Records era, gospel, Hollywood hits, the comeback album or the late career Las Vegas material – or a little bit of everything? You may cringe every time you hear “Can’t Help Falling In Love” because that was your song with your first girlfriend, and she broke your heart. Or, you liked “Heartbreak Hotel” but were more obsessed with calypso, if truth be told.
These days, we have access to every song ever recorded. Our favorite songs cross generations and genres, so it’ll be nearly impossible to know what makes an old heart sing just by looking at their birth date. Just because a song was popular when you were in high school doesn’t mean you liked it, either. That’s why I’m worried that years and years from now, I’ll have a hankering to hear Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s version of “That’s All Right” instead of the one made famous by The King …
… but since I graduated high school in 1983, they’ll assume all I want to hear is Madonna and Duran Duran. (I’ll probably keep whacking people with my cane until they stop that nonsense.)
Until some genius software company develops a template for a Musical Power of Attorney, I will have to do what I’ve done all along: trust my children. I’ve raised them to know good music when they hear it, and I’m sure they’ll keep my musical wits sharp and evolving throughout my next half-century. If and when I’m no longer able to spin my own iPod dial or change the satellite radio station, I know I will be in good hands … even if they turn my well-crafted CD collection into disco balls.
See you on the flip side …
P.S. I started this blog soon after I turned 45. Five years and 100 posts later, I am still at it, in no small part because of regular readers like you. As I blow out the 50 candles on my cake, one of my wishes is you continue to enjoy what you read and keep commenting. Thanks for coming along for the ride!