Thursday, November 1, 2007

Dancing Lessons

"Dance. Dance.
Wherever you may be.
I am the Lord of the Dance," said He.
"And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be.
And I'll lead you all in the Dance," said He.

Singin' and dancin', that is what our two-story house located just on the outskirts of town was always filled with. From the front window you could see Mom in the kitchen shakin' her rounded hips, singin' along with the radio. Bryn, the younger of the two of us, in that small kitchen standin' there, shakin' and smilin'. Her hair flippin' in her face as she attempted to minic the moves our Mom was makin'. Dad, asleep in the faded recliner, always layin' there with his ratty headphones coverin' his ears. I never could figure out if it was to drown out the rest of us, or if he really was listenin' to somethin'. By the rhythmic beat of his obnoxious snorin', I think it was safe to assume that some type of delightful music was fillin' his unconscious mind.

I am the one you could see standin' there, watchin' it all. The observer you might say. Not that I couldn't or wouldn't dance, sing, and carry along with the bunch; I just like to watch most of the time, that's all. Standin' there. Takin' it all in. Thinkin' and watchin'. Lost in the music that was fillin' my own mind. Then Mom would take a breather from all of her loud singin', with her hips still swingin', she would throw out her invitation.

"Heather, life's a dance! Come here, girl, let's see ya live!"

That was all I needed. I'd find my beat, and with one hippy, hippy shake, I was out on that old linoleum dance floor, livin' with the rest of them. And boy did we live.

My two-story house at the end of Woodvale wasn't the only house filled with life. A mere five or six miles away you could almost bet the same thing was goin' on within the walls of another home. It was just a different type of dancing, a different type of living. It was my grandparents' house. It was my grandparents' kind of living. The kind that took your breath away and made your heart pitterpatter with the hopes of doing it that same way some day. My grandparents didn't just dance, they loved. And as they loved, they would twirl and loop around, moving to the beat of their own kind of music. Grammy and Puddy, as they were known by the family, could make anything look easy and natural, whether they were dancing a magnificently, graceful waltz, a sly, sexy foxtrot, or a jitterbug that would knock your bobby socks off. It didn't matter. They were good. It made you wish you were that good. Watching them, watch each other, as they lived and loved all over the living room was like watching the most beautiful love story unfold right before your very eyes. It was this love and life that trickled down and molded our family. Our grandparents gave us our first dancing lessons, our lesson on life.

There did come a time when the dancing stopped and the music began to fade. A time when we all were the students of the greatest lesson of all. Parkinson's desease had silently crept in and Puddy's body was being held hostage. His spirit was alive, but his body was loosing the battle. His dancing shoes lay in the corner collecting dust. Time seemed to be passing in slow motion. Our family couldn't seem to find the beat anymore.

On one frigid, wintry day, while my grandfather lie in the starched sheets of a hospital bed, I sat in the sill of my oversized window in my own apartment. Below, on the street, cars passed and couples held hands. I fell back in a time warp of a childhood memory, my first dancing lesson.
My grandfather, with his outstretched arms, and I, barely tall enough to reach his waist, follow his lead and dance in the living room.

"1-2-3. 1-2-3. 1-2-3."

I step on his toes, but he pays no attention.

The music plays and still he counts, "1-2-3. 1-2-3. 1-2-3."

I am a princess as I spin around and around the room in my grandfather's arms.

"All ladies must know how to properly dance on their wedding days," he instructs in his charming manner as he continues to glide us around and around and around. I pay close attention to every move that we make and to the words that he speaks.

The telephone jars me from my memory, and a the music fades from my ears, I am left with the sadness, knowing that he will not be there to lead me on my day. I answer the dreadful telephone, knowing that the time has come.

The family is circled around an impersonal hospital bed. The staleness of sterilization is ecompassing our senses. I lean over and a tear kisses my grandfather's cheek. A smile takes over his dying face, and a spark flickers in his eye.

"Heather, old girl, we will be dancing on your wedding day. Won't we?"

I smile and kiss him goodbye, "Yes, Puddy. Yes, we will."

Today I hear a tune from long ago. I stand, stretch out my arms, grasp my imaginary partner's hand, and begin.

"1-2-3. 1-2-3. 1-2-3," I count out loud, just as I was taught when I was a young girl.
I twirl around and around. I dance like I have never danced before.

Still stepping on toes, I whisper to myself, "Yes, Puddy. Yes, we will."

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