Reading Aloud and Laughing Out Loud
I think their favorite part of the hour is having Buddy in their midst. He’s wandering around in the library when they arrive. Each one thinks he came to see them and each one gives him a warm welcome. He lays his head on laps and stands still between immobile legs to be petted. As the story commences he lays himself down on the floor in front of me where everyone can see him. Since I speak through a microphone, I’m not sure how anyone including Buddy, can fall asleep. The nurses have commented to me that many of them aren’t really sleeping. They are listening to the story with their eyes closed, relaxed by the tone of my voice, and the nearness of their friends.
I’ve read a lot of different things for them. A few weeks ago, I tried some Bill Cosby and Erma Bombeck. They laughed and guffawed and remembered things from raising their families. We didn’t get too far in the books, but they enjoyed hearing about chocolate cake for breakfast and potato salad at the funerals and frozen diapers on the clothes line. We laughed a lot and reminisced. These are folks from my parents’ generation, and only one generation removed from me. We remember a lot of the same things.
I love to see my mother laugh. She isn’t laughing at the story because she doesn’t hear it. She’s laughing because her friends are laughing out loud at something and she thinks they’re funny. I think she knows I’m reading aloud. She read aloud for years. I loved the sound of her voice reading to us. And we laughed out loud and probably made inappropriate comments, too.
It’s not so much the story. It’s not the content that matters. It’s the time spent together, listening, laughing, and being. That’s what matters. Reading aloud to the family can never be replaced with electronic games or tv sitcoms and chaotic reality shows. Listening, even with closed eyes, engages every sense and energizes the imagination. It is relaxing; it’s never a waste of time. It’s a valuable gift.