The pretty security agent at Ohare glances at FD's boarding pass and looks up, cheerfully asks, "How are you today?"
Without skipping a beat he says, "I don't know. Ask her."
He points to me.
"He's a man," I say. "He has to ask a woman how he feels."
She breaks up.
We're on the plane, it's a decent sized plane, and there's a monitor hanging in the aisle. We're going to see a movie. I hear a woman in the row behind me ask the flight attendant, "Which movie are they going to show?"
"Young at Heart," she says, puzzled. "I haven't seen it."
I get all excited, shake FD's arm. "Young at Heart! It's supposed to be great! It's a documentary about senior citizens who sing rock songs in a chorus! They're real rock stars. They perform at concerts. The show is called Alive and Well!*"
"Well," he says, "I'm glad I have the window. You can watch it."
"Why wouldn't you watch it?" I cry. "It's supposed to be great!"
"I'm not a senior citizen."
"Yes, but you will be soon!"
He doesn't laugh, but the woman on my left at the aisle gets a good chuckle.
And Young at Heart is fantastic. Watching octogenarians rocking to Yes We Can Can, and the James Brown hit I Got You (I Feel Good) well, it doesn't get any better than this.
Except when they're cracking jokes on oxygen, literally on oxygen cracking jokes, oldies but goodies. Fred (of Fred and Barbara, the spouses in this documentary are better than the performers) talks about how he sang in the service from continent to continent until he became incontinent. You have to love him. He also tells the one about marriage,
"My marriage is based upon faith and trust.I think it was Fred who goes on to say that sex gets better with age. It takes longer.
She had no faith in me and I didn't trust her.
Directed by Stephen Walker, this documentary tells the stories of the performers, destination Showtime. They don't all make it to the show, unfortunately, and the pathos is real; there's that battle with time that all of us might consider now and again, especially when we wonder if being productive is an option. It isn't always, or shall we say, may not always be an option.
Bob Cilman, the sympathetic but Let's get down to Business chorus director is delightful, and you say to yourself,
What a great job this guy has, but it has to be difficult.It's not as if you can demand your singers to attend rehearsal. On the other hand rehearsal, for Bob's singers, is a top priority. Virtually nothing keeps them away.
Each one of these great-grandparents** has his or her own charm. Fans pack the house at the show-stopping end to hear them croon oldies like the Zombies song, She's Not There, and the more modern heart breaker, Coldplay's Fix You.
Fearless, they warm up on the busride to the local jail singing Road to Nowhere. They'll entertain the convicts as they belt out tunes like the Jefferson Airplane's Don't You Want Somebody to Love, and Can't Start a Fire.
FD whispers, "That's what's called a captive audience."
There's plot, too. This group of seniors in Northampton, Massachusetts refuse to let age and ill health get them down. They'll make it to the performance. Or will they?
The message: If you can sing, even just a little, life's more worth living, even when it hurts to be alive. We knew that, but how often do we see it? How do we really know? Young at Heart prove it.
Five stars. Twenty-seven, actually, their names are listed below.**
Okay. The woman seated on my left is not only a flight attendant, she's a blogger, too. We talk more about her issues (she hasn't slept in days) than blogging, but it's the kind of thing that eases me into my vacation, that last bit of listening before I can relax.
And because there's that movie, and because I do manage to close my eyes for a couple of minutes, in moments we have landed and within seconds I'm throwing a baseball with my grandson. Time is everything, you see.
Empath Daught and Best Son-in-Law are in New York for a wedding, their first vacation without children in six years. They return for a weekend with us in L.A. before going back to work, before the kids start school again, before we all go back to business as usual, a mere 48 hours.
And in a flash it seems I'm back on the 405 to catch a plane for Chicago, no movie this time.
We're curbside at Departures, LAX, locked in one of those hugs that makes people stop and stare. She's beautiful, why wouldn't they stare, in her signature wider than average faded-brown floppy baseball cap, pony tail at the back, and a rich coral billowy empire blouse that she has found in three colors; she's told me this in response to, I love it, and a darker than powder blue soft-brush jean skirt unraveled at the knee.
"I'm going," I say. "Thanks."
"I'll be there soon. We're coming in September."
I'm about to break out in a chorus of
Bye bye, so long fare well. Bye bye, so long fare well. See you in SeptemberIt's a very old song that I have already taught my granddaughter, but I know my daughter won't get it.
"I know. I love you so much (I haven't let go of her). Watch yourself. Let them take care of you once in awhile. And get some rest."
Only a few hours earlier that day I'm folding her clothes into my carry-on. She's loaded me down again with things she can't wear, things that somehow, miraculously, look good on me.
"This sweater will look so pretty with your eyes," she says. "This suit hits your shoulders where it is supposed to hit your shoulders, Mommy. I just love it."
I do, too.
"And did you remember to pack that moisturizer?" she frowns. "It has sunscreen. Put it on every morning. I saw you sitting out in the back yard in the sun this morning, baking like a lizard. You must wear sunscreen. And put it on your arms, your hands. With that biking, you need it."
"Okay. " She gets away with telling me things my mother never could. "Well, if you guys didn't have to keep the house so cold, I wouldn't have to to defrost out in the California sun."
FD is lugging the carry-ons from the car. He hugs her, too. Then she's gone. I don't look back.
We get through security easily, not the droids they're looking for, and I'm upset, actually, that I have to go through this, security, upset at the people who started it all on September 11, 2001.
We pass a Duty Free shop and I leave my bag with FD. I do this every time, stop at Duty Free to try out a new perfume. It can't hurt. What's a tester for? This one is Dior something, maybe Cherie, powdery. I like it, think it's a real possibility. FD isn't sure. Anyway, it's a domestic flight.
He changes topic. "Did our daughter even notice that I washed the car? And vacuumed it? Did she notice all the groceries you bought and that I replaced the light bulb over the stove? She never mentioned the time I raised the fixture in her kitchen so that normal sized people don't bump their heads getting a banana."
"She thanked us. You weren't listening. You miss her already?"
"Too bad you don't fit into any of her clothes."
"She liked that movie, you know, Young at Heart, saw it on her return flight."
"She would. I think it's a chick flick."
Something makes me think he should skip keyboard, go directly to singing. He's got a very good voice, actually.
*The Young at Heart chorus (Y@H) will be on stage at the Ellington Theater in Washington, DC, Saturday, September 6, 2008 @ 8:00 p.m.
**Cast includes: Joe Benoit, Helen Boston, Louise Canady, Elaine Figman, Jean Florio, Len Fontaine, Stan Goldman, Eileen Hall, Jeanne Hatch, Donald Jones, Fred Knittle, Norma Landry, John Larareo, Patricia Larese, Miriam Leader, Patricia Linderme, Brock Lynch, Steve Martin, Joseph Mitchell, Dora B. Morrow, Gloria Parker, Liria Petrides, Ed Rehor, Bob Salvini, Steven M. Sanderson, Jack Schnepp, Janice St. Laurence