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Mom and Mr Welk

My podcast episode this month was how music therapy can help in caregiving. When I first heard of music therapy, it made me giggle because I have witnessed the joy music can bring to life. I had no idea there was an actual therapy for it, and yet it made perfect sense.

Music has always been a huge part of my life because it was such a huge part of my mother’s life. When she would talk about her love of music, she would tell me the stories of her as a young child, dancing around her father while he played the accordion. Or the story where she and her sister would sneak into other people’s weddings to dance. My father, not a fan of dancing, would dance with her at family weddings because he knew she loved it so much.

The stereo was always on in my house growing up. On Sunday mornings, I wasn’t sure what woke me up first, the smell of spaghetti sauce wafting up the stairs or the sound of Frank Sinatra’s voice.

After my father died, my mother made a conscious decision to follow that love. As luck would have it, she met a widower who loved music, and dancing, as much as she did, and they spent the next twenty-six years dancing across the Tri-state area every weekend.

When she moved in with us, I tried to keep music as part of her daily routine. Either with her cd player, concerts on DVDs and VHS tapes or on YouTube. Aside from Sinatra and friends, our weekly staple was watching The Lawrence Welk Show Saturday nights on our local PBS station.

I remembered watching the show on Saturday nights as a child, and it always seemed so long and boring. Rediscovering them with my mother now was quite different. The show would start, the orchestra would play, and those champagne bubbles would fill the screen. My Mother was so excited to see them again and I grew a new appreciation for them as well.

In my adult mind, my thoughts turned to the show’s production, the tremendous talent, their weekly schedule of all day practice and live shows. I thought about the performers singing AND dancing to multiple songs each week. It was a treasure trove of talent, as was their costume department.

Each week, we would wait to see what color the band members were wearing. The pale blue? Bright orange? Or that bright raspberry color that jumped off the screen? Mom would comment each week, “look at those suits!”

Dare I say, I came to love those shows and the performers and I looked forward to watching the episodes, especially the late 70s and 80s. Before I knew it, I became a Welk groupie. Reading all I could about Mr Welk, the biographies of the cast, even the Welk Resort. I bought Mom a book about Mr Welk and cd’s of the talented, happy couple Guy and Ralna. I never told her they had since divorced, or that Mr Welk and many members had passed on. To her, they were all alive and well and doing their thing.

Each week, I checked the upcoming schedule and if it was one of her favorites, I would record it on the DVR so I could play it if she was having a rough day or if we just wanted something musical. This was a different level of happy for her. It transported her to the first time she heard these songs. Not only did I look forward to the show, I looked forward to her expression when I told her they were on. That meant the world to me.

Now, I have 21 high-definition Lawrence Welk episodes on my DVR. The ones that brought that spark back to her eyes. If I think about it, I can still hear her singing along with them. The challenge comes when I want to watch something I’ve recorded. Just seeing the title makes my heart hurt, knowing I will have to delete them. Just the thought of hitting that DELETE ALL button makes me dizzy. Isn’t that silly? It’s just a show. But THESE shows mean something. They were a moment in time. Maybe I’ll watch them again before I do.


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