Cue the banjo player (you won't regret it)

Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz

So anyway, speaking of aging, I got to spend Sunday evening with a delightful old guy named Steve — a spry, perfectly adorable gentleman with a Mike Pence hairdo who plays the banjo and seems to have a natural flair for humor. I think his last name might have been Martin. Perhaps you've heard of him.

It's not like the two of us went out to Shari's and had pie. He's been touring the country with an obscure little Canadian named Martin Short. The show was billed as “An evening you'll forget for the rest of your life,” and they made it clear audiences should be grateful for the visit, confessing, “We wouldn't be here if we'd saved.”

After expressing what an honor it was to perform for our cell phones, Steve casually mentioned his age — 70 — and a palpable sense of disbelief rippled through the room. He doesn't appear to have changed a bit over the years, which Mr. Short helpfully explained is probably because he's looked 70 since he was 35.  

I had mixed feelings watching those two seniors cavort about the stage like playful fawns. On the one hand, their friendship and joy was infectious. On the other, with my growing list of age-induced shortcomings, I couldn't help feeling bad about myself by comparison. Their seemingly inexhaustible energy. Their still razor-sharp wit. Aging isn't supposed to happen that way, and they're ruining it for the rest of us.

Like one of my favorite smart people, Atul Gawande, says in his book “Being Mortal,” “We're always trotting out some story of a ninety-seven-year-old who runs marathons, as if such cases were not miracles of biological luck but reasonable expectations for all. Then, when our bodies fail to live up to this fantasy, we feel as if we somehow have something to apologize for.” After two hours with Steve and Martin, I know the feeling.

Though Steve's health seemed good, I don't think it's too soon for those of you in leadership positions to start dreaming of the day he's admitted to your long-term care facility. He'd roll through the lobby with a fake arrow through his head, or perform “My Little Buttercup” in stand-up. And with all the uncertainty about the future of this profession, a little banjo music thrown in certainly couldn't hurt.

There's a comedy bit he used to do back in the old days, striking up a rollicking ditty on this much-maligned musical instrument and then singing, “Oh, death, and grief, and sorrow, and murder.” The point was to prove the incongruity of sad songs and the banjo, and I think it could also work in long-term care.

He could change the mood of this entire industry just by strolling and strumming through facility hallways while crooning, “Oh, staffing, and survey, and norovirus, and readmission penalties.”

Imagine it. No more worry. No more stress. Whenever bad news arrives, just cue the banjo player.

Epilogue: It's amazing the treasures I discover while writing these columns. Here's a video clip proving beyond all doubt that Steve and I truly are best friends.

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in the 2014 Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He has amused, informed and sometimes befuddled long-term care readers worldwide since his debut with the former SNALF.com at the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.

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Things I Think

Things I Think is written by longtime industry columnist Gary Tetz, who resides in Portland, OR. Since his debut with SNALF.com at the end of a previous century, he has continued to amuse, inform and sometimes befuddle long-term care readers worldwide.

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