The haven where persons aged sixty and over can find a comfort zone
It’s just after 8.00 pm on a Friday night and Siefert, having taken in all of the news on television, after quietly tucking in his shirt into his jeans, neatens his all -grey hair with his hands before making a turn to go to the Karaoke on the Main Road where a number of people like himself are already gathered.
Celeste, his wife of over 40 years, smiles with a sense of quiet gratitude that this man who had been a respected secondary school teacher all his working life, was able to find a sanctuary at least once or twice a week as a source of relief from the terrifying loneliness she knew he must be going through otherwise, especially since she is the one who hears him screaming out in the wee hours of the morning – as if trying desperately to recreate a world which was long gone but never forgotten.
“You ready, babe?”
As she slaps him playfully on his now sunken-bottom, Celeste – who had long found her own comfort zone in the Casinos which Siefert loathes- gestures that she was going outside and would be waiting for Siefert to give him a lift to his place of fun and laughter.
Few people understand and appreciate the power of this phenomenon which, as innocuous as it may seem on the surface, plumbs the depth of the most intense feelings and nostalgia that is possible in old people who, in their winter years, find themselves hanging on to a thin thread of hope that life is still worth living.
Observers can feel the launch of the big event when the Karaoke singer’s name is called by the DJ; his song is announced, and he or she saunters into the spot light – perhaps properly soused up with drinks – to put on the grandest performance of a long, usually mundane life time.
It’s almost like starting a new era as you stand on the brink of a cliff facing time into which you can fall at any moment. Somewhere in the abyss, you feel confident that you will be embraced and appreciate by your kindred spirit in a place where – as R. Kelly sang – I believe I can fly!
The song is done. The singer retreats from the spotlight amid the cheers and banter of admirers whom he cannot discern in the shadows. The DJ calls out to another singer and the show continues into the night’s left-over hours.
Opening his door to an empty house after an acquaintance from the Karaoke session gives him a lift home, Sieffert jauntily waves to his benefactor, knowing that this will be the last moment of contact he would have with any living being until he wakes up in the morning and sees his wife Celeste at home.
As he kneels in prayer, he expresses gratitude to God for granting him another opportunity to meet people and find some new nourishment to help him carry on in a world where most days are blurry from tears of despair which do not come but remain hot and dry on his aching cheeks.
Feeling very happy about the reception he had received from his song tonight, Sieffert promised himself he would summon up the courage to practice a very old number which he had learned from youth and which he always sang in the bathroom but had never dared to share with his Kareoke community.
As he settled into bed, one could hear the sound of his new song being hummed across the room.
Oh My Pappa!