It was a spontaneous invitation from my mother to attend their senior holiday dance and party. I was out of state visiting them and I obliged her request. How much fun could it really be with everyone so advanced in years?
The club house was nothing fancy — reminiscent of a church basement or school gym, devoid of color, with few decorations. In front of the small Bingo stage sat the collapsible sound system from the hired DJ, complete with a disco ball spinning crystal dots on the walls, and a lighted 3-foot Santa next to his unit. The floor was exceptionally shiny, as if someone had spent hours buffing it to perfection for dancing.
The 40 seniors waited in line for cafeteria style dinner of roast beef, green beans, and a roll. Dessert would be homemade cakes from the neighborhood ladies, served on styrofoam plates.
During our meal, the DJ came alive, obviously loving his job. The beat from Glen Miller’s “In the Mood” was evident in my tapping feet, shoulder motions and bobbing head. Was that ME actually having fun? The fun was just beginning.
Mesmerized by the fantastic selection of 40’s and 50’s music and jazz beats, the seniors suddenly came alive. Some with canes, others with oxygen, still others afflicted with heart disease — it didn’t matter to them — they got up and started dancing like they were young again. Before my eyes, the music became their magic. Transported from 2009 back to the 1940s, the hands of time literally spun backwards to return them to their prime in life. This was their night and they proudly took ownership.
The most moving part of the evening was how they looked at each other. Couples married for 50-60 years still gazed upon each other with love and affection. I even caught a glimpse of an 80 year old man stroking his wife’s face while they danced, and I had to hold back the tears because I knew she was fighting an illness. This, I thought, was true commitment.
They had survived the Great Depression and a devastating world war. They were fiercely loyal, still loved America, and always had a strong work ethic.
For one night, for a few hours, they didn’t care about their diseases, ailments, aches, and pains. They only wanted to let their hair down and have a memorable time. There I sat, in love with each of them for the way they treated each other with smiles galore, twirling about as if today were their last day on earth.
The thought crossed my mind, as it probably did theirs, that their time is indeed limited, for some more than others. How could they dance and enjoy fellowship with such carefree smiles and attitudes? Because they love life, and offered each other the best gift anyone could possibly receive … the gift of simple joy.
I found myself deeply moved by what I saw that evening. Ours has become a world of convenience, and often inconvenience. A place where people are always asking, “What’s in it for me?” A place where we don’t see as much care and concern for each other as was in our parents’ generation. I felt like Ebenezer Scrooge visiting a strange time and place, who saw the light and understood the meaning in the few hours they allowed me to share with them.
Our seniors truly are our greatest asset and we have much to learn from them!
© 2009 Julie Hall