This essay is my gift to you, America, as we struggle to save your life as a democracy. As we witness the move toward fascist alliances, toward stripping people of the very rights our ancestors sought on your shores, we will continue to defend and protect what you’ve always stood for: Liberty and justice for all. Happy Birthday. (Click on Dangerous below.)
Club Maplewood, they called it. A dance at the nursing home, complete with disco lights, a Tom Jones-type performer, ginger-ale champagne, and a wide-open dance floor. A dance floor lined with 70 walkers and wheelchairs.
As part of the entertainment, there are expert ballroom dancers performing choreographed routines. They twirl each other around the dance floor as the wheelchair-bound residents sit, solemn-faced, on the sidelines and watch. My discomfort is palpable. How cruel to subject the residents to this spectacle! Do the fancy dancers realize that although they might be superior in their abilities now, the same fate might befall them someday? I am convinced that this so-called “dance” is a bad idea. A really bad idea. I want to leave and take my dad with me.
Then the magic begins to unfold, like a scene from the movie Cocoon. People start to tap their feet and clap their hands. The performer sings to the elderly women, and they swoon. And slowly, other dancers join the pros on the dance floor. The aides work the room, holding up those with walkers who move slowly but in time to the rhythm. Wheelchairs begin to appear, and residents are twirled by partners with two good legs.
I realize at this moment that there is a dancer in every one of us, no matter our age, and even when the flesh gets weak, the spirit remains willing.
The scene is not lost on my father. He comments on how good the dancers are, looking at me intently. “Do you want to dance?” I ask him hesitantly. “No,” he says, giving me a moment of relief before adding, “Unless you want to?”
With much reservation, I wheel my dad onto the now-crowded dance floor. We start to dance, this little man “standing” three feet high in his wheelchair and me in my high heels and business suit. We dance the jitterbug, holding both hands and moving back and forth. Despite his diminished stature, he insists on leading and on twirling me, for which I have to stoop considerably. He grins.
Cameras flash. The scene is nothing less than extraordinary. We dance for the rest of the evening until the last song: Last Dance. And there, at the nursing home disco, I dance what is likely to be my last dance with my father. His eyes sparkle; mine fill with tears.
While I am tired, my father could have kept going, way past his bedtime. We are among the last to leave the event. And as I wheel him down the hall, two of the professional dancers approach him.
“You were good,” he tells them.
“No, you were good!” they respond almost simultaneously. They introduce themselves to him and ask for his name. They tell him they loved watching him dance, that he has great rhythm and so much enthusiasm. They tell him it was a privilege to be on the same dance floor with him.
He could have burst with pride, thanks to their kindness and sensitivity. And I am delighted to have my skepticism proven unwarranted for the second time that evening.
I take him to his little room, and we say goodnight. “Thank you for dancing with me, Dad,” I say, as I turn to go.
“Did you have fun?” he asks.
“Yes,” I respond emphatically. For it was truly the best dance I have ever attended.
Excerpt from They Live On: Saying Goodbye to Mom and Dad by Patricia A. Nugent
Dolly is without pedigree papers, so her date of birth is unknown. I’m told she was born on a farm in mid-May, so I designate Mother’s Day as her birthday. Today, she’s two years old.
Since I’m without mother or child, I take the birthday girl for a walk, hoping to generate enough serotonin to lift the funk of this motherless child. There are many middle-aged single women living on my lane, and I notice they all seem to be home alone. From that observation, I surmise that on this day designated to honor our earthly source of life, many mothers are not with their adult children. And many adult children are not with their mothers.
After I moved four hours away from my hometown, I seldom saw my mother on Mother’s Day. We postponed paying homage to motherhood each year to keep peace in our family. My father’s birthday followed by less than two weeks, so we’d celebrate both on the same day – his day. To have done the opposite would have been unthinkable…to him. So, my mother was one of those women without her children on Mother’s Day. She always assured me that a phone call would suffice until we gathered for his birthday. “It’s not that big a deal to me. Really.”
I now wonder if it might have been a bigger deal than she let on. Like most mothers, she was used to sacrificing. Now that my parents are gone, I wish we’d had two celebrations. But at the time, one was all I could handle due to the accompanying family drama.
In a bizarre way, this neighborhood scene – all these women alone on Mother’s Day – gives me comfort: Even if I’d had children, I might still be alone today. There are no guarantees of affiliation or proximity. But it also makes me want to shout out, to rent a billboard, to sound the warning: If you still have a mother on this earthly plane, spend as much time with her as you can. Because too soon, she’ll be gone forever.
(excerpt from Chapter XV of manuscript Healing with Dolly Lama: Finding God in Dog by Patricia A. Nugent)
To honor those students lifting their voices today against gun violence…
I’m embarrassed to post this story, yet recognize the value of exposing our own shortcomings, in hopes that we and others will learn from them.
‘Tis the season…click below.
Click below to read how a Muslim helped me find Jesus…again. My Easter message as published by Vox Populi.
Workers on the landscaping crew look different this spring. They’re typical American guys now – overweight, sporting baseball caps and tattoos.
The Mexicans used to bug me somewhat – they didn’t speak English so it wasn’t possible to communicate with them as they worked in neighbors’ yards. But they were very friendly and polite. And everyone vouched that they were meticulous, hard workers: “Try to get them if you have a project,” I was repeatedly advised. One neighbor used to let them use his cell phone on their breaks, so they could call across the border to speak to loved ones. They wept in gratitude, it had been so long since family contact.
Five Mexicans used to jump off the truck in years gone by to tackle spring clean-ups. Today three Americans have arrived instead. Probably for the same price.
“Looks like a whole new crew this year,” I commented to the three rakers as I walked past.
“Yup,” one said. “Sure is.”
“Where’d the other guys go?” I didn’t slow my pace, just kept walking my dog, trying not to act all that interested.
One stopped raking and started to say, “Well….” and was immediately cut off by the other shaking his head and saying, “We don’t know. We don’t know.”
The third was on his cell phone.
As I walked away, I heard them laugh. Snigger, maybe’s more like it.
I don’t know if the Mexican workers were fired due to lack of documentation, are in hiding, or have been rounded up by I.C.E. I do know that I could never understand how Germans could have allowed their neighbors to simply disappear and not ask more questions, not demand that it be stopped.
Yet now, I flounder not knowing the best course of action to stop this madness in my own country.