Anymore, Maxine Miller doesn't remember the names of her children – such is the nature of her dementia.
But start any song of Elvis Presley's, and Miller will sing right along, or at least be mouthing the words.
Wednesday afternoon, she sang along with E-Rock, an award-winning Elvis tribute artist. It was a special treat for Miller and most of the 20-plus residents at Waterford Ladies Hall in Blue Springs, courtesy of the personnel at Waterford and with Ascend Hospice.
They wanted to give Miller, two months shy of 89 years old and a longtime Elvis obsessor, a big, enjoyable surprise before her dementia becomes too severe.
E-Rock (normally known as Eric Haws of Buckner) had done a show for a luncheon next door at Vesper Hall and volunteered to do a 45-minute show at Waterford, where Miller has been a resident a little more than a year. Her son Bernie and his wife, of Independence, along with two of Bernie's sisters and some of their families, along with some family of other Waterford residents all crowded into a reception hall for the special show.
“She stares at pictures of Elvis,” said Christine Cole, a social worker with Ascend. “Before she declines, we wanted to do this for her while she still has some enjoyment in life.”
Miller naturally is an upbeat person – “She doesn't have a mean bone in her body,” Bernie said – but she especially lit up when E-Rock emerged and hugged her, then launched into a serenade of familiar tunes.
“Did you get pictures?” she asked everybody before E-Rock started to sing.
Oh yes, plenty of people got plenty of pictures, and video, as well, as E-Rock sang, danced with Miller, gave her a scarf and received several kisses on the cheek or hand.
“Get back over here!” she said when E-Rock went to his computer to pick the next song. “Sing to us some more!”
Later, when somebody asked Miller what she wanted to hear next, she said, “Whatever he chooses, I'll get up there and stand by him.”
E-Rock told the gathering he had seen Elvis Presley perform live in Anaheim, California, as a 12-year-old in 1973, and that had been a source of inspiration for him.
“I've sung in front of 3-4,000 people, and I've been doing the nursing homes, the care homes,” he said later, adding that the Elvis show had been a life-saver during a dark period in the youngster's life.
Miller's children don't believe she ever saw Presley perform in person, but no doubt she's seen several tribute artists, they said. Wednesday, though, probably topped them all.
“I have never seen that lady so happy,” Waterford administrator Suzanne Todd said.
Other residents appeared to enjoy the show, as well, as indicated by them lingering to talk with E-Rock afterwards.
“Maxine, did you have a great time?” he asked at the end of the show.
“I'm the winner!” she answered.
A day to remember, indeed.