Wednesday I took my friend Sherman Welpton to a noon-time concert of the Tom Rigney Band at the Oakland city Center. Sherman is in a wheelchair with a spinal disconnect and Parkinson’s; these days he’s pretty much totally incapacitated. Physically, that is.
Mentally, inside the physical shell that’s not working, he’s the same funny, perceptive, and playful guy that he always was. Several years ago, I wrote something about him for our fraternity brothers (Stanford, class of ’56). To see it, click here.
Over the years Sherm and I have gone to a bunch of musical events. He’s the one who turned me onto Fats Domino (Yes it’s me and I’m in love again) when we were teenagers, and thereby changed my life. We’ve gone to Ashkenaz, the Berkeley world-music club that has good wheelchair access, a bunch of times.
Even though he can’t talk, or even move these days, there’s something about him, some kind of aura that people often pick up on. Once we went to a biker bar in Hayward to see a blues band. When the bikers saw us, they cleared their Harleys away so I could park the van, and helped me get Sherm in. One night we went to see Merle Haggard at the Warfield in Oakland; at the intermission I wandered around taking pictures and when I came back, Sherm was holding hands with a girl in the next row. Dude!
Sherm is always game. These days one of his caregivers always goes with us. There are four women who care for him at his home in Oakland. They all love him to pieces. The other day I said to him. Sherm, you fucker, you’ve got four women looking after you, plus your wife Ruthie. His eyes twinkled.