A while back I introduced you to Sally, now 98 years old, who loves to dance. After I wrote that post, Fred came on the scene.
My music often inspires dancing. But unfortunately I don’t see a lot of it. Spinet and upright pianos—the types I usually play as a volunteer—are typically tucked against a wall (to save space, and to hide the exposed framework at the back). All the action takes place behind me. I need a rear-view mirror! Luckily, in the upscale retirement home where Sally and Fred live, I play a beautiful grand piano, tuned and well-maintained. And because it’s positioned centrally, I face my audience.
Fred is a short man, a tad pudgy, his head slightly more hairy than the cue ball its roundness suggests. He’s nearly 20 years Sally’s junior and recently widowed. For a time, when he saw Sally sitting on the sidelines he gallantly extended his hand and lead her to the open floor space near the piano. With Fred to hold onto for support, she could briefly abandon her walker and kick up her heels. At song’s end, Fred bowed, which Sally appeared to find ridiculous, or maybe embarrassing. I can’t be sure why, but I suspect the reason is this: Fred isn’t a very good dancer.
Male dance partners are in great demand in a senior facility, where the majority of residents are female. Fred embraced the role with enthusiasm and energy, but I often didn’t see much correlation between the music I played and the way he moved his feet. He sometimes paired a 2-beat dance step to a 3-beat waltz. He often threw himself into what looked like solo interpretive dance. And when I played the “Beer Barrel Polka” – well, let’s just say his version of the polka was a little unconventional. Still, I had to give him an A for effort.
A couple of months ago, Fred greeted me with the news that he has started having trouble with dizziness and is afraid he’ll topple over if he tries to dance. His doctor suspects an inner-ear problem. “Now I can only dance like this.” Fred demonstrated in Riverdance style, his upper body stiff and unmoving, his feet making fast, crazy patterns.
So for the moment Fred is a wallflower, except for a quick hop-skip as he passes by the piano on his way to lunch. And Sally? I saw her last week. She put in her usual request for “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby.” Then she danced.
Copyright © 2013 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
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