Monday, October 30, 2023

Dance of Life & Death

Originally Written June 24, 2015.

Memories.  Funny how they "pop up" at the strangest times.

Why did I start thinking about dancing with my husband yesterday?

Could it have been the recent visit of our youngest son as he made time to change his travel plans to swing through our city, the city where he grew up, his "home" for so long? 

So welcome a change as another year has been added to husband's . . . can't use the word right now.

He and his wife celebrated another anniversary. The years are passing but they're still so few compared to the lifetime together we shared. 

We were fortunate. Even with the early parting, we were still given many years and great memories made together; choices and possibilities, errors and regrets -- yes, those too.

Walking from the car to the restaurant where we were going to dinner I walked behind him.  It was raining and we gave him one umbrella while daughter and I shared another.

There he was. In a business suit. Walking ahead of me as his father sometimes had; I saw again how much he resembled this man I married, father of our children, of this grown "child" now a husband/father, not that many years away from being a grandparent himself in the broad scope of life passing so quickly.

He's built like his father. Same height or near it. Broad shoulders. Even his walk is similar. And that smile, yes, definitely the same one; the twinkle in the eye and broad enough to wrap around the world and back again.

Mannerisms and gestures are also so similar but yet many he's developed and acquired that are his uniquely.

So, why think about dancing?  

Maybe it's a need for the closeness shared. 

Perhaps it's returning to the joy of special occasions where dancing was part of the celebration.

Not all times. Especially the last dance we shared before we began our journey down life's final road together.

The sweet times.  The first dance. The Newman Center on campus.     We were in college and in those days there were many parties and special occasions where we danced. Our favorite song was "Twelfth of Never" by Johnny Mathis. This became the first dance at our Wedding.

Dancing was definitely changing as the movement from "couples" changed to the individual dancing "their own way" but with a partner to today's concept of just getting out there and being a part of the "group action". 

There are some memorable times that come to mind.
One in particular:

His fraternity's Sweetheart Dance where I was one of the young women chosen to "compete" for the title. 

It meant getting a special long formal dress and not having the means of many of my contemporaries, it was quite a pressure to find an affordable dress in the small college town where we went to school.

I found an amazing pink satin dress with some sparkling sequins -- simple in design and so beautiful. 

My then "date" and years later to be wonderful Mother-in-law, suggested she could make a long formal coat to go over the dress as the weather was cool that Autumn. 

I think I still have either or both the dress and the coat ... I say "think" because we experienced a fire and lost almost everything we owned when we were married seven years. 

It was devastating even though it wasn't where we lived it was one of many major life challenges we would go through together.

Walking through the ashes tears you apart. We were fortunate no lives were lost and as with so much of our life, picked ourselves up and began again. 

Back to the dress and coat . . . 

My "date" was supposed to drive me to the little shop to pick up the dress that was being altered. As I would discover through the decades of married life, he would sometimes forget, often to my frustration and yes, even anger. Seems small now, that anger; seemed big at the time.

He forgot. Completely. Totally. He called me on the phone that night and received a very "cold" reception. 

Today I can say he was honestly confused; he'd really forgotten. To me then it was a major event; the dance was the following day so I'd walked all the way there and splurged on a cab for the return because I had this long, flowing dress to carry. 

No cell phones in those days. No way to reach him.

Compounding the "situation", I asked him if he'd forgotten to do anything that day and he paused, thought a minute and said:
"No, I went to all my classes and came home and took out the trash. No, nothing. Why?" 

Of course, to me, the mention of remembering to take out the trash at his shared apartment was too much. He could remember the trash but not remember the dress I needed for the dance?

Memories. The good. The bad. The movement back and forth, around, twists and turns, fast and slow. 

Like a dance. One you create as you move through life.

I remember dancing at our wedding, at our 25th wedding celebration with friends and family, at events celebrating life and milestones with our children.

And, then . . .  I remember our last dance

At an American Legion Hall where my Uncles used to play musical instruments keeping us on our feet and laughing together creating memories to last a lifetime.

We were celebrating one of Mom's sister-in-law's major birthdays -- turning 90. They had a close history including Mom's staying with Aunt Pearl helping her birth her third child -- Wayne.

Dementia was a part of his life as well. I should ask more questions to see what type he had -- if it was diagnosed. He left us just a few weeks ago. I'll always remember his one sided smile, and his mischievous eyes. He was just a few years older than me but we seldom were together, and true to the times, me a girl and he a boy, in family gatherings girls played with girls and boys with boys.

Adults and children. Dancing. Laughing. Sharing. One Aunt from Canada enjoying dancing what we were told was called the "Scottish". 

Memories of Aunt Olga's always busy hands creating and crafting sweaters and the amazing infant items she made for our children -- especially the pink sweater she lovingly made for our daughter who arrived very late in our life, our sons were 13 and 15.

My uncles playing musical instruments and singing. Country music; country songs; country dancing. Some I enjoyed; some featuring Uncle Jules and his "unique" voice that often verged on being ear splitting.

Cousins now with their own children and grandchildren. Mom enjoying herself and everyone amazed at her "ability" at such an advanced age, older by several years than her sister-in-law.

My husband said he wasn't feeling really well; he'd had his first trip to the ER and short hospital stay several days earlier.

We didn't know this night would be our "last dance" together.

I admit, I've always loved to dance. 
Our Song was played
The one we danced to at the college Newman Center where we'd met. Johnny Mathis' "Twelfth of Never". 

I begged him to dance. We stood and held one another for a few minutes with the familiar melody bringing back so many memories. 
Then, he begged to sit down; he said he couldn't stand any longer. 

His weakness increased. 
The following day we went back to the hospital.

We started our journey down the last road together.

Life is a dance. Sometimes slow; often fast. 
We dance together, we dance alone. 
The notes can be high or low. 
The tempo varying.
It's the dance of life shared . . . together . . .  

We write the music, sing the song, moving our bodies to melodies we create through days, months, years we're given. It's sweet and it's sour for almost all of us dancing down the many roads of life.

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