Category Archives: Journal Arts

Last Dance

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

 

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Journal Arts, Soul to Soul Blog, They Live On, Uncategorized

Mother and Child

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)

 

6 Comments

Filed under Journal Arts, They Live On, Uncategorized

One Ticket to Safer Schools, Please

To honor those students lifting their voices today against gun violence…

https://voxpopulisphere.com/2018/03/24/patricia-a-nugent-one-ticket-to-safer-schools-please/

Leave a comment

Filed under Journal Arts, They Live On, Uncategorized

Rush to Judgment

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.

Rush to Judgment

3 Comments

Filed under Journal Arts, They Live On, Uncategorized

Where Have All the Mexicans Gone?

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Journal Arts, Soul to Soul Blog, They Live On, Uncategorized

Only a Nazi Should be Called a Nazi

My latest essay, published by Vox Populi, February 16, 2016.

Only a Nazi Should be Called a Nazi

2 Comments

Filed under Journal Arts, They Live On, Uncategorized

Telling and Living the Story of Jesus

Wearing t-shirts that read, Today I am a Muslim too, twenty of us piled into the United Church of Christ’s bus to head to our local mosque. When we disembarked, three times our number were already there. People of all denominations and ethnicities were gathered on that cold December night for the same purpose: To show solidarity with Muslims, defending their right to worship as they are called to do.

While Muslims prayed inside the mosque, we stood outside with candles and sang a hymn written by the mission’s organizer that included the refrain, You’re never alone because we stand beside you. We were then invited to join the worshipers, leaving our shoes at the door. The mosque was strikingly bare with no statues, paintings, or furniture; no “false gods before” them. The men prayed up front, women in the back, heads covered – admittedly ruffling my feminist spirit.

The imam spoke in Arabic, the sound disarming with its harsh consonants coupled with our inability to comprehend the foreign tongue. A tongue showcased by the media as radical and violent.

We stood in the back as worshipers bowed prostrate to their God. Our God.

After the prayers, we were invited into the worship area. The imam explained that we’d been asked to remove our shoes so that the area would remain clean for God; typically, we’d also have been asked to wash our hands to be pure for God. He explained that the worship area was stark so nothing would distract worshipers from focusing their attention on God.

He told us the prayers recited were about “the beautiful story of Jesus and Mary” – that Muslims also commemorate the birth of Jesus this time of year. There was at least one audible gasp in the group, reflecting our collective ignorance of the Muslim faith.

As the imam spoke, children ran around, playing games, and laughing. Muslims love their children too, a parody of Sting’s song about Russians, went through my head. We were hugged and photographed in appreciation. We laughed, cried, and broke bread together.

The imam expressed gratitude for support received since bullying and hate crimes against Muslims are on the rise. When asked if they have an outreach plan to teach other religious, educational, and civic organizations about their faith, he said they’re a humble people who don’t want to push themselves on others. But they’d be delighted to explain their beliefs when invited to do so.

It’s important to understand the basic precepts of a religion before condemning those who practice it. If the Roman Catholic Church were to be judged solely by the Crusades, the Inquisitions, witch hunts, Nazi-collusion, Timothy McVeigh, or bombings of Planned Parenthood centers, it would be judged as one of the most dangerous and violent religions. As Pope Francis said in August of this year, “There is always a small group of extremists in practically every religion. We have them too.”

In Jesus’ day, there was violent hostility between Jews and Samaritans. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus exhorted followers to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” When asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told the story of the Samaritan who had stopped to care for a Jewish man who’d been beaten, while others – even the most holy – had walked on by. Jesus answered that the neighbor was “the one who had mercy on him.” Then Jesus instructed, in his native Aramaic tongue, “Go and do likewise.”

If you are a school leader, member of a religious or civic organization, invite the imam of your local mosque to speak about the Muslim religion. They are our neighbors; they deserve mercy.

Patricia A. Nugent
December 2016

9 Comments

Filed under Journal Arts, They Live On, Uncategorized