I’d like to share a special memory from two years ago as we prepare for the new year ahead.
It was a spur-of-the-moment invitation from my 78 yr. old mother. While visiting my parents out-of-state, Mom announced she bought me a ticket to their senior holiday dinner and dance party at the local clubhouse. Knowing it would make them happy, I obliged, but wasn’t exactly ready to kick up my heels just yet. How much fun could it really be?
The clubhouse was nothing fancy — it was reminiscent of a church basement or school gym, devoid of color though there were a few decorations on the wall. In front of the small bingo stage was the collapsible black sound system from the hired DJ, complete with a disco ball spinning crystal-like dots on the walls and a lighted 3 ft. Santa next to his unit. The floor was exceptionally shiny, as if someone had spent hours buffing and polishing it to perfection, meant just for dancing.
With roughly 40 seniors present, dinner was served. We all waited in line, cafeteria style, to be served our food – a very simple meal of roast beef, green beans and a roll with coffee or water. Dessert would be homemade cakes from some of the neighborhood ladies. Styrofoam plates in hand, we waited patiently as everyone got the same amount of food.
During our meal, the DJ came alive and it was obvious he loved 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? Dare I say the fun was just beginning…
Mesmerized by the fantastic selection of 40’s and 50’s music and jazz beats that made you want to get up and bounce all over the dance floor, the seniors suddenly came alive, as if their simple meal had fueled their fire. Some with canes, others with oxygen, still others like my mother afflicted with heart disease – it didn’t matter to them – they got up and started dancing like they were young again!!
Before my very eyes, the music became their magic. Transported back to the 1940’s, the hands of time literally spun backwards to return them to their prime in life. No longer weak or frail, they would have easily danced their boomer children into a state of exhaustion. This was their night and they proudly took ownership of it.
Over the course of the evening, I found myself looking closely at the old men’s weathered faces. They didn’t look old to me anymore. It was like watching an episode of Star Trek when they were brought back in time wearing their U.S. military uniforms and the ladies’ vibrant and shiny hair had curls and they had small waists, just like in the old movies.
But the most moving part of the evening was how they looked at each other. Couples who had been married for 50-60 years still gazed upon each other with love and affection – I even caught a glimpse of an elderly man stroking his wife’s face while they danced. I had to fight the tears back because mom told me that lady was fighting an illness. This, I thought, was true commitment.
They had survived the Great Depression and one of the world’s most devastating wars, and raising us! These were people who simply did what needed to be done. They are 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, a 48-year-old daughter, who found herself in love with each of them – for the way they laughed, for the way they did the “Twist,” for the way they treated each other with smiles galore and twirling about as if today were their last day on earth.
The thought crossed my mind, as it probably did theirs, that our time is indeed limited, for some more than others. How is it they could dance and enjoy fellowship with such carefree smiles and attitude? Because they love life and offered each other the best gift anyone could possible receive. They gave the gift of simple joy. The gave the gift of each other.
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 saying “What’s in it for me?” and a place where we don’t see as much care and concern for each other, as there was in our parents’ generation.
I felt like Ebenezer Scrooge visiting a strange place and time, who saw the light and got the meaning in just the few hours they allowed me to share with them. I feel so very honored to have witnessed such a gift. Our seniors truly are our greatest asset, and we have much to learn from them. All we need to do is open our eyes, ears and hearts.
© 2011 Julie Hall