Thursday, December 16, 2010

We Heart Volunteers

We get a fair amount of volunteerism at the GreatRep. There are people that bring in dogs to visit with the residents, people that come read aloud to everyone, people that do crafts, people that put on musical performances. You'd think that all our volunteers would be pretty normal, but they're not. They're often just as weird as the rest of us in there (staff and residents both). There's the guy that comes to sing and play guitar almost every week, who's incredibly tone-deaf. There are people whose ideas of "activities" are so half-baked that I really worry they're going to get scared and leave. There are people who set off the exit alarm every. single. time. they come and go.

My favorite are the well-meaning oddballs. We've gotten lots of them lately, it being holiday season and all.

Yesterday was extra awesome because the musical volunteer of the day looked a lot like If Wayne Newton Dressed Like Merle Haggard. He had a special synthesizer-thingie that made his backup music, and a microphone and everything. He set up in the dining room, so we brought anyone who was willing in to listen to him while we passed out snack.

First of all, you've gotta have balls to show up and sing to a room full of people with dementia; they're not your typical audience and they won't be shy to let you know if they dislike what you're doing. And if they do like it, they may not show that at all. So I give the guy credit for that, plus he really did have a very nice voice. He sang Christmas songs for the most part, and did it well.

The part that really made him the December Standout in my book is that he'd stop between songs to do a little patter as if this were a nightclub. So after a rousing rendition of Rudolph, here's what we were treated to:

"So a few years back, my wife and I were driving home from cutting our Christmas tree and she looks out the window and sees some reindeer in the field we're passing by. She's shocked because she didn't know that reindeer were a real animal! So we pull over, and walk around the truck, and go up to the fence and look at the reindeer. About now I decide it's time to play a little joke on my wife. So I says to her 'Honey, what you might also not know about reindeer is that if you talk to 'em, they'll talk back to you.' She looks at me skeptically, but I'm insisting here, 'No baby, really, go up to one, and say niff and it'll say niff right back to you!' She told me I was full of it. So I tells her again 'Just say niff niff to them, it'll work! They'll say niff back to you.' "

(he went on like that for a while repeating "niff" a few more times to make sure we all knew he was trying to get his wife to say "niff" to the reindeer)

"I said really, I know it's strange, but you just go right up to them and say niff..."

which is when LeeLee (resident) decided she's heard "niff" enough times and interjected "What the hell is that?" which then made me laugh hard and silently.

Her reaction was way funnier than the climax to his story, which was that he came around the side of the truck and heard his wife whispering niff to the reindeer to see if it was true, and he laughed at her.

LeeLee knows what's up. "Niff"??? Really. What the hell IS that?

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