I’ve spent more hours than I can tell you with half-dressed, soaking wet, coffee-loving, mischievous seniors. No, I’m not talking seniors as in high schoolers, but lively senior citizens from my aqua aerobics class at the Bangor YMCA. These go-getters desired an instructor, and I needed them more than they knew. I craved adult interaction after spending the last nine months as a brand-new stay-at-home mom of twin boys.
These retired CEOs, foresters, nurses, mill workers, realtors, and others spanning the senior age spectrum were retired in name only, not activity.
Over the last seven years we’ve spent together, each of them has shared humorous, informative, and sometimes heartbreaking experiences of raising their children with me. And I have shared my own mommy mishaps and tales of child rearing my rambunctious, talkative duo. It just so happens that two of the men in my class share the same name as my boys—Don and Frank. Senior citizen Don actually has twin boys my age and survived and thrived, so that has always reassured me that I, too, can overcome being outnumbered on a daily basis.
But this story is about another senior in my class, named Joe Pickering, Jr., of Bangor. Joe is the former Executive Director at Community Health and Counseling Services. He has expressed to me, and quite vocally to the rest of the class (while smirking), that he feels I show favoritism to other senior participants like Frank, Don, Nancy, Sue, or Bob and that he’s astounded he’s not receiving my undivided attention. While I don’t have favorites at the pool or at home, Joe still likes to antagonize me. I can always count on him for a comment or two.
When Joe isn’t joking around and vying for the role of teacher’s pet, he is writing songs. He’s published many songs through his website, King of the Road Music (kingoftheroadmusic.com). One of those songs almost made it into the movie Sully, a film about real life pilot Captain Sully Sullenberger who safely landed his US Airways Flight in the Hudson River in 2009 after a bird strike. Pickering uses this musical outlet to create songs about love, war, patriotism, sports, and Christmas.
He once asked if he could use his talent to pen a song about my boys since he has come to appreciate their innocent and curious ways. He was especially fond of the time my kids expressed that they wanted Santa to delay visiting at Christmas because they “needed more time to get on the nice list.” We both laughed aloud at the request. It has been two years since I shared that story with him, so I figured he moved on to write a more compelling tune.
The last time I saw Joe and the rest of my wet and wild seniors was Friday, March 13, 2020. True to the fable, this particular Friday the 13th was unlucky indeed because it was our last class together, due to the pandemic.
Despite (or to counterbalance) the forced distance, I reached out to my dear class members through cards, emails, and phone calls, and they did the same to me. We have all shared often how much we miss the interactions, laughs, stories, and camaraderie the class gatherings brought to our lives. Hoping to stave off their loneliness and bring a smile to their faces, I continued to share the latest antics, sayings, or situations my kids put me through during our daily interactions.
As the 2020 holidays approached, I fondly recalled the cards, baked goods, and presents this fabulous group had lavished on me over the years. In the past, they would also organize a Christmas luncheon at a local restaurant, complete with a festive and very competitive Yankee swap. Nancy would dress like an elf or a snowman from head to toe, to everyone’s delight. And Joe would usually write a song or poem that he’d share with our group at this outing.
This year however, there was no in-person celebration to be had. Despite the pandemic and the loss of his own son in a tragic Bangor house fire in November, Joe managed to write a beautiful, heartfelt song. It’s a tune about my boys wanting Santa to arrive when their dad (my husband) is home from serving overseas. He told me writing the lyrics was, “both painful and therapeutic.” He went on to share, “It may not capture all the antics of Frankie and Donnie, but I do believe the song captures the spirit of every Frankie and Donnie in the world. It makes my eyes water and tear. My Chris was five years old when we moved to Bangor and somehow, for me, he lives in this song.”
In a year when so much has been altered, nixed, or called off, the pandemic can’t stop compassion, kindness, and the healing power of music. Joe’s song, “Santa Please Come to Our House in July,” is truly one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given. The song actually promotes celebrating Christmas when the family can all be together, something COVID-19 has taught us not to take for granted.
The tune is such a wonderful depiction of my boys, as well as an amazing tribute to my husband for his service. But to me, the song is a testament to the human heart that can still beat on, still beat strong, and still be tender despite undeniable heartbreak. Although I still don’t have favorites, maybe, just maybe, this senior citizen, with his big heart and talented tune, has finally won what he’s been coveting all these years—the center of my attention, as well as my deepest gratitude.
SANTA PLEASE COME TO OUR HOUSE IN JULY
MY TWINS DONNIE AND FRANKIE WERE FIVE
THEY DIDN’T WANT SANTA CLAUS TO ARRIVE
WE WERE ALL SO LONELY
I OFTEN DID CRY
WE NEEDED CHRISTMAS ON THE FOURTH OF JULY
THE BOYS MAILED SANTA A SIMPLE REQUEST
A CHANGE IN HIS SCHEDULE TO FIT US BEST
COME TO OUR HOUSE
ON JULY FOURTH PLEASE
THAT’S THE DAY OUR DADDY COMES HOME FROM OVERSEAS
HEARING NO REPLY
THEY NOW KNOW WHY
THEY HEARD JINGLE BELLS
IN THE SNOWY SKY
SANTA KNOCKED AT OUR DOOR, THE BOYS YELLED LEAVE
DADDY’S NOT HERE! THERE’S NO CHRISTMAS EVE
SANTA DON’T WRINKLE UP YOUR NOSE AND SIGH
CAN’T YOU COME BACK IN JULY?
HE SAID MY ELVES MAKE TOYS THEN, BUT BOYS DON’T CRY
PLEASE LISTEN TO ME, AND I’LL TELL YOU WHY
I SPIED THIS COPTER
AND PILOT ON THE GROUND
THAT’S HIM I SAID! I MADE MY SLEIGH SWOOP DOWN
COME SEE THE PILOT THAT I FOUND
I BROUGHT HIM HOME TO YOU SAFE AND SOUND
THEN DADDY RAN TO THEM
SAID I’VE MISSED YOU SO BAD
THANK YOU, SANTA, WE’RE ALL MERRY CHRISTMAS GLAD
WE’LL HAVE A MERRY CHRISTMAS DAY
BEING TOGETHER MAKES CHRISTMAS . . . IN EVERY WAY.
You can hear the song at www.broadjam.com/songs/josephpickeringjr