Matt Yee here in balmy Honolulu. I’m sorry I missed seeing some of you recently. Several of you have written in saying, “My holiday cruise has not been the same without a Matt Yee Late Nite Adult Sing Along Show”. I must say it also feels different being at home for the holidays as well. I’ve spent so many of them out at sea (with you). This email is to thank you for your kind thoughts and to let you know why I’m not at sea.
You see, my dad has cancer, and some of you may have heard me talk about this in one of my shows. The doctors said it would be good for me to be home at this time. They were gearing his chemo treatments so that he would at least make it through to the day after Thanksgiving, the day of his party.
Wait a minute, back up. A couple of months ago, I was in Alaska, telling my dad by cell phone about a birthday party I had just done in California for a doctor and his wife. It had gone off very well and the birthday gal had tears in her eyes! My dad said, “why can’t we do that here in Hawaii for my friends and the doctors who are helping me?”
“We can Dad”, I replied, “but we need a place, a grand piano and a sound system.” The next day, he responded that he had reserved the Waialae Country Club for the day after Thanksgiving and had found a place that would deliver a grand piano as well. So that became “The Party”.
So talk about pressure. My dad, even on chemo from his hospital bed, invited over 100 of his friends, family and doctors to agree to show up for this party. He told me, “I’m so glad I have this party to look forward to. It keeps my spirits up and something to work on”.
As the date neared, I wondered about all the things that could go wrong. What if Dad was too weak to attend? What if his friends didn’t want to participate or sing? What if they had no sense of humor? What if they didn’t like the food? What if I SUCKED? There probably wouldn’t be any second chances.
The pressure was getting to me. I took my dad aside a few days before the party and said I was prepared to do the show, but needed a plan B just in case. He said, “no, I want them to see what you do on the ships, what I saw on Royal Caribbean. Make sure you bring your tip jar and your CDs. That’s an integral part of your show.”
I sighed and told my brothers, who of course predicted complete failure. My brother Terry, who’s a urologist (how’s that for a job?), said, “you know these people, they just want to sit back and be entertained. They won’t want to sing” In other words, he predicted I would bomb. I felt like Chicken Little in the Disney movie. I wanted Dad to love me whether I hit a home run or not.
So I went to church that Sunday. And I saw many things that day. I saw old friends I hadn’t seen for a long time. I saw people singing along, one of the early inspirations for my shows. I saw healing power and remembered that I used to do cabaret shows with spiritual intent.
And so I prepared myself for the day after Thanksgiving.
The evening came quickly. I was still doing the last of my sound check when the first guests arrived early. I got them a waiter and drinks outside and asked them to wait a few minutes until we could open the room. Satisfied with the sound and the layout, I quickly took a shower and changed into my evening outfit.
My brothers came and manned the tables checking in people. Everything, while loosely planned, was falling together. Mom and Dad arrived. Dad said he was tired, but excited. They were given high back royal seats. A line formed in front of them as people came to say hello. I stationed myself in the foyer to greet folks as they entered and to direct them to the main dining room where the party was. This way, I got to meet everyone coming in.
Within half an hour, everyone had shown up. You have to give it up to my dad for calling every single one of them from his cell phone in the hospital. He had created this party, the menu, everything, including me. And you could see, he and Mom were very happy.
People headed for the open bar and the buffet line. There were several carving stations with suckling pig (head and all), a large fresh Japanese tempura station full of fried shrimp, fish and vegetables, a station of just salads, a long table of desserts and fresh fruit. People would not go home hungry.
And then it was time. My brother introduced me and I entered in my white angel outfit, blessing people with a large wand I had picked up in Istanbul earlier this year. When I arrived at the piano, I started in immediately with the Nana’s and Tequila. “We don’t care if you don’t know how to sing”, I said. “We don’t care if you suck. All we care is that you sing loud, so HOW ARE YOU GOING TO SING?”
Now I know if the answer to that is tepid or without energy, it’s time to go to plan B. Luckily, they answered with a resounding “LOUD!” and we were off. The night flew by and the energy built. By the time we hit the fever pitch of boas, tiaras and lots of clapping, I grabbed the energy and asked everyone to raise their hands and aim their energy and the energy we felt in the room towards mom and dad. “Because this isn’t easy,” I said, “but this is what family does, what our community does, what we do. We help each other in time of need and we support each other with our energy.” Dad started crying, feeling the love of all the people in the room aimed at healing him and his cancer. Somehow everyone in the room said in a chorus, “We love you Bay and Tay”, my mom and dad’s names, “and we support you”. And you could feel we were one, for just that moment. And what an amazing moment it was.
I finished the night off with “Home is Where the Heart Is” and with The Mary Tyler Moore Medley from my Every Facet CD to a standing ovation. Thank goodness, the night was everything my dad wanted it to be. When we got home, tired and grateful everything had gone so well, dad had left us a message on our answering machine. “Thanks for a wonderful night”, he said from his hospital bed.
CLICK HERE TO HEAR THAT MESSAGE
Dad’s liver has shrunk back to normal. That’s a good sign. Tomorrow he comes home again from the hospital. It’s his first chemo treatment since the party. He’s been very strong lately. More people have been visiting him and mom. And we have had some great talks too. Monday, I take him back to the doctors for a shot and then, we’ll go to lunch. That’s become our new “normal” life.
And that’s what I’ve been doing this vacation. I’m scheduled to be back on the Navigator out of Miami January 14th. To all of you who have bought my CDs, Thank You. Please buy some more. If you haven’t picked them all up, or given a bunch to all your friends as holiday gifts, now is the time to visit www.mattyee.com. Plus I’ll give you another great reason to visit. In my spare time, I’ve been sifting through backlog of a year and a half of photos. It’s a work in progress, but I’ve posted a lot of new stuff in the cruise photo albums, including pics of the Caribbean, Europe, Alaska and my live show (thanks Keith). So please take a look and tell me what you think.
And let me know how you are doing. Happy Holidays,
Matt Yee, December, 2005
A few days later...
Aloha E-Crew Gang,
Matt Yee here in Honolulu.
I am thankful that my Dad’s liver has shrunk back to normal.
I am thankful that we are learning to use mobility tools like canes and wheelchairs.
I am thankful for the time I do get to spend with my family. Thursday, I took Dad back to the doctors for a shot and exam and then, we went to lunch at a new Chinese restaurant. It’s about a 5 hour process. That’s become our new “normal” life.
I am thankful that things change, and that I am learning to balance with that. In truth, there is no “normal”. We humans tend to spend so much time and energy trying to put certainty into an uncertain world. Even on ships, we try to find the “routine” which works and stay with it, even though the audience changes week after week. It’s important to be in the moment. To appreciate what we have right here, be here, right now.
I am thankful that I need to work. And caretaking my parents is not my longterm work, although I have set aside almost 3 months to help them through this part of their adventure. This experience has made me more certain that I need to get back to doing what I do in front of an audience. I am thankful I have a job that allows me to do this.
I am thankful that my dad is showing me how to live. I recently did a show for him and over 100 of his friends at the Waialae Country Club (home of the Sony Open Golf Tournament coming up in January). You gotta hand it to my dad. He set up this party for himself, made me play, and made all of his friends sing, including people like my pediatrician, my kindergarten school teacher….It was amazing. And he set it all up using his cell phone from his hospital bed!
I am thankful that there are great doctors in the world, like the ones caring for my dad.
Through it all, I have to remind myself to be thankful. Thankfulness gives me perspective and appreciation for what I do have and what this experience is teaching and giving to me.
I am thankful to be learning about this stage in life. Middle age for me comes with aging parents, my dad with cancer and my mom with short term memory loss.
Fuck I lied. This sucks. I can’t wait to be back on ships. Merry Christmas.