Sally is dancing again. She has set aside her walker and taken her place next to the piano bench, her hand resting lightly along the side of the walnut grand. A tiny 97-year-old fireball sporting a silver cap of bob-cut hair, Sally taught line dancing at the local community center until a few years ago. Today, she is content to dance by shifting her weight gently from side to side, sliding one foot a few inches and bringing the other foot to meet it. Slide—together, slide—together. She ventures a small kick forward every once in a while.
This whole routine worried me terribly at first; I was so afraid she would fall. But after three years of Sally’s dancing, I look forward to it, confident that she knows her limitations and wants to stay upright as much as I want her to. Some days she needs a little more stability, so she and her walker do their little dance together.
I am always ready for Sally’s requests. Her favorite dancing tune is “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby,” by Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson. Written in 1925, the song has a jagged rhythm that fit the Charleston dance craze of the time. Sally also asks for “East Side, West Side,” officially titled “The Sidewalks of New York,” an 1894 gem as light and breezy as her dance moves. (Its lyrics made the expression “trip the light fantastic” popular).
When she needs a break, Sally sits a bit on her walker’s built-in seat and sings. She remembers the words to all the old songs, and starts singing after I play just a few chords. Most of her fellow senior residents need to hear several bars of a song to bring the lyrics to mind and join in.
“Oh, I’m a pest,” Sally says each time she asks me to play “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby.” No you’re not, Sally. You most definitely are not.
Copyright © 2013 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.