Photo 1: John or MJ?
Photo 2: Who?
Photo 5: MJ
Photo 6 Our Maestro
Priest and Organist:Doesn't he look handsome?
This is one of our favourite days and we cannot go out. However, we have lots of pictures and memories and John's hearing and memory are still sharp so we can reminisce once more. It was great for me to meet someone who loved to dress up so much! This will be the first Hallowe'en in 20 years when we are not running around the house scrounging up some made up costume.
You should have seen John- like a child. Even when I had had a long day at work and debated whether or not we would go out again, I'd come home and just open the door to John sitting there "waiting" and quickly stating, "So, who are we going out as this year?". That child-like excitement got me in the mood pretty fast!
So, can you guess which character is which one of us?
Photo 1- is me and Photo 2 is John. I have to tell you that so often even after folks learned that in that costume it was John and I, mostly they thought John was the "male gender" and I was the "female character". (Doesn't say much about my legs- Everyone would lift John's skirt and suggest a female name or thought it was me....seriously though his legs look great in panty hose and high heels!).
John and I would drive around various parts of Toronto, dropping in on friends and family who usually didn't have a clue who we were. Some wouldn't even let us in their homes, being bothered by the knowledge of personal information we knew while not disclosing who we were. And, driving around itself was a hoot- probably a dangerous things for others because the stares we got potentially could have caused accidents as people were assessing the car next to them!
I had to always act in "silence". I could make gestures and not blow it, but once I opened up my mouth I typically blew it with uncontrollable giggles. Not John...he could maintain a high pitch voice and character for at least 30 minutes, with no laughs or even a pause! The performer in him I guess!
We enjoyed being clowns also- although most people knew me from the shape of my face and would just say "Oh Hi Mary Jane"...which kind of bugged John.
The last set of photos was taken on our cruise last year to the Mediteranean. We hadn't packed costumes and on the ship a "show" was planned for guests that required participation. We were considering just bailing out since John was the ship pianist and was already a performer, but at the last minute (and I really mean with 45 minutes to go) we decided on a concept. I knew John had a black jacket and pants with him and I quickly made a collar from paper. There was a piano/organ on board so I suggested I would be the organist and he the priest and that we write new lyrics to Amazing Grace. John asked me to leave him for 20 minutes while he quickly wrote a brilliant lyric about all of the cruise staff. I hunted around the ship for our props: the Bible, flowers for my sunhat and an umbrella. When I returned we dressed quickly. In we went to the main room in costume. Again, John was beautifully in character, blessing folks as he walked to the stage and gathering them up in a congregation. I walked over and played the organ. He gave a brief sermon and then sang his lyrics. Then he turned to me and stated, "Madam Organist...that is just a little too serious and stagnate for this congregation". Over he came to the organ, asked me to move aside and of course we were all treated with delight to "When Ragtime Rosy Rags the Rosary!" Need I say more? We were a bit of a hit that night!
Anyhow, we are home now having a few laughs tonight and a bit of sadness too. John is further weakening and he knows that. But he feels so blessed to be at home. He is pain free and he is so glad that he can hear music. We usually start out with Ragtime or up tempo tunes in the morning, than shift to opera or strings in the afternoon and by night I put on his own CD's, usually something quieter for soothing and to help him rest. It really works. And, it is really something to see the response when you try to "attune" the music to his state of health or emotional/physical state. I find I can really make a difference through music in keeping him comfortable.
Every single day he thanks me for caring for him at home and expresses his feelings to me which of course breaks my heart. He also sees his children daily and hears about their days. And, we have two pumpkins over here carved by his grandchildren and some photos in their costumes....all important stuff.
Although it is sad to see him so ill, there is laughter and also some times where the silence is all we need. He knows he cannot do many things now and he realizes he faces the end of his life. And, we are all preparing for that and feeling that his grace, acknowledgement and charm are helping each of us to cope. It amazes me to see how generous of spirit he is right up until the end and just how important music continues to be with such impending finality.
I also read letters to him, which he really enjoys when he has the energy to listen to words. He knows he is loved by all of you and blessed and that means a lot to the whole family, as well as him.
He's quite a treasure....our John.
Now, tonight, do I put on our tapes of "gobbly ghostly musicians and howling wolves?" or another John Arpin CD? That's an easy decision, of course.
Enjoy the night!