Category Archives: Soul to Soul Blog

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

 

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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.

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Anger on the Shore

White caps crash
Waves slam the sandy shore
Surf chases meandering feet
Back away, she roars
Back away

You’re angry, I say
And why not?
You offer bounty
And we dump plastic
Spill oil
Explode bombs
Poison creatures
Bring on your fever

Back away, she warns
Or I’ll melt my ice caps
Bust your levies
Flood your cities
Kill your food source
Deny you life

I’m angry too, I confess
My planet is being destroyed
My water, my air, my land
My life force

Back away, I roar
Corporate polluters
Over-consumers
Climate-deniers
Military forces
Frackers and drillers
Back away
It’s my ocean too

White caps crash
Waves slam the sandy shore
Surf chases retreating feet
Is the ocean fighting back
Or just reflecting my own anger?

© Patricia A. Nugent
Earth Day 2016

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A Mothers’ Day Visit

I went to see my mother early this morning. She was sitting in a chair, all dressed up, trying to figure out which of three scarves to wear to adorn her outfit. She thanked me for being such a good daughter, for helping her out so much. I helped her stand, a challenge due to her creeping paralysis. Once she was upright, I pulled her close and wrapped my arms around her, taking in her scent. Her frail body leaned against mine, surrendering control.

“Thank YOU, Mom. For staying around. I know this is tough on you, still being here, but I’m glad you’re with me.”

Then I woke up. And remembered that it’s Mothers’ Day.

I didn’t go see my mom this morning; she had come to see me.

Happy Mothers’ Day, Mom. I love and miss you so…

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Lucretia Mott: Lioness of the Convention

This amazing woman conspired with Elizabeth Cady Stanton to organize the first Women’s Rights Convention that kicked off the women’s suffrage campaign. In this 95th anniversary year of the 19th amendment, get to know the women who risked everything for their right to participate in the democratic process. Click to read the article I wrote for Ms. Magazine about Lucretia Mott. And give thanks.

http://msmagazine.com/blog/2015/03/02/lucretia-mott-the-lioness-of-the-convention/

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Today, I Fast

On this first day of a new year, I fast. For 24 hours, I am only ingesting water and green tea.

There are documented health benefits of fasting. It flushes out toxins that have accumulated in our bodies and jumpstarts our metabolism for potential weight loss.

But today I fast in remembrance and in solidarity.

In remembrance of those who do not have enough to eat on a daily basis, for whom fasting is not a choice. The pangs of hunger I feel are nothing compared to what starving children feel. Missing three meals today won’t kill me, but it can kill a baby and, in fact, does every day, even in this Land of Plenty.

In solidarity with those for whom refusing to eat is a form of civil disobedience. Alice Paul, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, and Nelson Mandela are among those who chose to sacrifice their own comfort and well-being for a cause bigger than they: Liberation from oppression.

Today, I fast. For a few hours, I will be hungry. More significantly, I will feel a connection to those who need our intervention to survive and to those who were determined to claim social justice as their birthright.

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Don’t Compare

It’s hard not to notice that many in my yoga class are more limber or better balanced than I am. Some can bend at the waist and touch the floor with their palms, their knees only slightly bent. Others can stand on one leg seemingly forever. Not me.

“Don’t look around,” Mana intuitively instructs the class. “This isn’t a competition. Honor your own body and your unique abilities. You’re perfect just as you are. Don’t compare yourself to others.”

Don’t compare myself to others. Easy to say, hard to do in this ego-ravaged world.  So the lesson keeps presenting itself to me. Prior to a cranial-sacral session with Mana, I tell her of a friend who is not conscientious about his health habits yet is seemingly healthier than I am. Where he definitely has the edge over me in healthful lifestyle is that he doesn’t worry. And that makes me wonder if my stress and anxiety are canceling out my good health habits.

I tell Mana that I want to be more like him, that I need to change.  She immediately responds, “Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Neither is better than the other. You’re just different.”

I nod, not fully embracing the again-repeated lesson. My blood pressure is high; his isn’t.

She continues, “Self-compassion is important. Otherwise, you can end up feeling guilty for who you are.”

Feeling guilty for who I am. When seen in that light, what a shame, and how debilitating, to carry such guilt around. Of course I could do better. But I don’t need to be like anyone else.

Later that night, I have an unexpected good cry. And then fall into a wonderful night’s sleep. Thanks to the wisdom of my 82 year old yogi.

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