I sit in my seat and watch the folks come in. It’s a wonderful, diversified collection of
senior citizens who come to the center every Thursday to hear the band, dance, and feel young
There is a volunteer band of some ten or so musicians which includes four horns,
keyboard, drums, accordion, and three guitars. Accomplished musicians all, they are former
high school music teachers and band directors. All retired now, they look for ways to share their
talent. The group also includes an energetic singer/tambourine banger and a ninety-seven year
old former concert pianist who plays a piece or two when she’s not dancing or resting. As
accomplished as the musicians are though, the audience is the real star of the show.
The women are generally in better shape than the men so several ladies dance with and
assist the old timers who are enjoying themselves and won’t give in to the constraints of old
age. However, there are a few aged Texans in boots, who two step several older ladies that
need a partner.
Mabel, an overweight lady in her early eighties, is always the first person on the dance
floor. She dances alone and rarely takes a partner. She prefers to glide around, hands in the air,
feeling her energy and basking in memories found somewhere in the depths of her mind. You
won’t find a happier looking, smiling face.
There’s Vern, an elderly man with a severely humped back. Frail, Vern is led to the
dance floor. He takes his partner and glides slowly and cautiously around his little piece of
personal dance heaven.
You’ll see “Shaky” Howard. He has Parkinson’s Disease, but he doesn’t let it slow him
down. He’s like an old Packard automobile. You need to prime the engine and pump the gas
pedal a few times to warm him up, but then watch out, he’s ready to go. His hands are shaking,
his head bobbles, and his mouth looks like he is chewing beef jerky and bubble gum at the same
time. He steadies himself on the shoulder and the back of his partner and off he goes—his smile
leading the way. There is no slowing Howard down and his partner better be ready to dance.
There is a lady who does chew gum. The harder she chews, the faster her feet go. When
the chewing slows down, her feet slow down. This has nothing to do with the tempo of the
music, but everything to do with her chewing. I’m not sure what the connection is.
Adam is an interesting fellow. He is too large to dance so he sits in the last row on most
of two chairs and listens to the music while holding a cookie or two. Adam has long flowing grey
hair and wears flip-flops, no matter how cold it is. Adam has a kind face, but I worry about him.
You see, he falls asleep and dozes several times during the performance. I’m concerned
because, when sleeping he tends to fall forward and almost fall off the chair. He could hurt
himself and I am not sure how we would get him up.
One fellow, I’ll call him Tex because of the fancy boots he wears, looks like a real ladies
man. He gets a look on his face and a gleam in his eyes as he prowls around looking for his next
dance partner. He makes a lot of ladies happy as he expertly dances them around the floor. Tex
is harmless nowadays, but I wonder about him in his younger years.
Remember the ninety seven year old concert pianist? After she plays her piece, she’s
always ready to dance. Some dances she doesn’t last the whole way through and has to sit
down. She’s a trooper though, and will get miffed if no one asks her to dance after she sits out
for a few songs.
There is one couple who is the star connection, a duo who, hands down, is a winning
dance couple. You could easily find them on one of the television dance shows. She, Debbie,
has a smile that stretches across the entire dance floor. She could follow a herd of stampeding
elephants or a pride of hungry lions zeroing in on dinner. Her partner, Mike, must have worked
for the railroad at some time. He’s quite the engineer, leading his partner around double time
while always checking over his shoulder to make sure no one else is on his track.
A group of eight people come together. They are brought on a bus that caters to those
with dementia. Their caretakers assist them in getting situated and comfortable. Two are on
walkers, one a wheel chair and two have a dim look about them. One was a former tennis
instructor who is in his thirties. He is a victim of hereditary dementia. They all love the music
and most can dance.
One man, Bill, is well dressed. In all my weeks of coming to the center, Bill has never
worn the same shirt twice or has had a wrinkle showing anywhere. Bill has a bit of a lost or
forlorn look about him due to his dementia. One can see in his eyes that his mind is in a
different place, a place from long ago. Bill loves to dance and loves to hold his partners. You’re
never sure how he will react in a situation due to the lost memory or the found memory.
Once, I was dancing with my wife Jan, when she took a break from singing with the
band. I could see Bill watching us intently. Bill came forward and cut in and made a threesome
out of our dance. I carefully backed off and let him have the rest of the dance. I sat in a chair
close by so I could help if need be, as Bill will sometimes tend to lose his balance. Bill twirled Jan
around several times, smiling big, dancing in a time long since past.
When the dance was over, Jan led Bill to the seat he usually sits in, but Bill would have
none of that sitting in his normal seat. No, he maneuvered through three rows of chairs to sit in
the same seat I usually sat in. I feel that Bill had become me while dancing with my wife and
was living out the fantasy which was reality in Bill’s world.
I am touched by what I experience at these dances. I am thankful for the relationships
we have with our fellow man and the ways in which we are able to share these life experiences.