Friday, July 27, 2007

Today's Moment of Dad..."Can't Stop Dancin' "

Yeah - it's 5:30 AM, I'm awake (God knows why) and I felt the urge to write. And GOD HELP ME, I actually have a topic!

I haven't had a "Moment of Dad" for a while, so this is a veritable menagerie of memories. (Oops - more alliteration - dammit...sorry)

Anyway, let me just riff a little bit on today's topic: DANCING...

Heaven, I'm in heaven,
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak...
And I seem to find the happiness I seek
When we're out together dancing cheek-to-cheek

From the time I was a little little kid, I remember my parents dancing.

My earliest memory was of them going to square dances with the Shirts and Skirts square dance club. They developed many strong friendships out of this group that still exist today.

I remember Momma's square dance dresses (many of them made by her) and the fluffy petticoats she wore. She had a pair of gold square dance flats that looked like Mary Janes with a strap across the foot. Daddy's Western shirts usually matched her outfit exactly or were at least color coordinated.

There were a few times where Ruthi and I went to square dances along with Mom and Dad. I say "few" because we threw a fit once we got home. Why?

Well, in square dancing, there's lots of changing of partners. For some reason, in our heads it was OK for Mom to dance with whoever she wanted to. However, when Dad did it, we lost our little minds!!!! We felt that Dad dancing with other women was a bad thing. Mom seemed to handle it OK, and I'm not sure how she felt about our opinions other than "Awww, isn't that cute?"

As time went on, Mom and Dad eventually stopped square dancing. But they didn't stop dancing in general.

Mom and Dad both had the good fortune of working with a fellow postal carrier who moonlighted as an "oldies" DJ. He had a "golden oldies" radio show, he DJ'd many area dances with Mom & Dad's favorite tunes, and even had a small role in our Community Theater production of "Grease" (he played the TV personality who hosts the dance contest at Rydell High).

Mom and Dad were big fans of this guy's music and DJing skills, so whenever he was working a dance, Mom and Dad were always there, as were their friends...some from square dance days, others from Army Reserve, work, etc.

Everything I know about "couples" dancing I learned from my parents and their friends.

Two couples that stand out are Ron & Dorothy A. and Dave B. and both his first and second wives. It wasn't just about dancing, was how their mutual interests led to lifelong friendships.

Ron & Dorothy A. were from square dance days...Ruthi and I were in school at the same time their kids were, and our families did many things together. Ron & Dorothy hosted "The Dawson Girls' " wedding receptions, and Ron always made sure he danced with us at least once through the evening.

Ron was always amazed at how much we'd grown and that we meant a lot to our folks. That always touched my heart and made my lip quiver just a little bit. He had a good sense of humor and enjoyed Mom & Dad's company a lot...he could always converse with both of them without feeling awkward or shy.

Dorothy was a good friend who always had her ear to the ground for "news" (i.e. gossip) in town. I remember one time I was showing her pictures of a wedding shower held for MW and I, and she saw someone local in the picture...she said, "What is HE doing there?"

I said, "Well, he's my future mother in law's boyfriend."

She said, "Why didn't I know about this?" I replied, "Well, I guess you just missed that one..." She was very surprised to be left out of the loop.

Dave B., in contrast to Ron, was very gregarious. Dave and Dad were Reserve buddies, and he and MW both served in Desert Storm through the National Guard.

Dave had the good fortune to share dancing interests with both his wives. He could really cut a rug in many ways...he knew steps to the old dances from the '50s and '60s, but he also knew how to waltz, he knew disco steps, even the Macarena. He and his first wife were really into dance contests...they won good prizes and always impressed the crowd. Dave's current wife is also a good dance, but I'm not sure if they do contests or not.

Dave was never shy about dancing with Mom, although he did complain about her "leading" too much. Apparently, it's genetic...Dave B. complained about it in me, as does DD in the present day. But Dave taught Ruthi and I some good moves too. We were not ones to be flipped about when he jitterbugged, but we did plenty of spins and dips and other fancy stuff.

Dave and both his wives were good friends off the dance floor...I know when I went to U of Iowa, they were surrogate parents to me. I'd call and whine about life and they'd listen to me and try to cheer me up.

They'd give me rides when I needed them too. One of my college memories involving Dave was when my friend Brian and I went to Sycamore Mall to see "The Fourth Protocol". Brian and I took the bus to Sycamore Mall, but by the time the movie let out, the buses stopped running. I panicked, and then remembered that if I needed Dave's help all I had to do was call.

So call I did - at 10 o'clock on a Saturday night. Dave wasn't exactly thrilled, but he was there and he was good about it.

Dave's kids, again, were like family to us. I recruited Dave's older boy to work at GEICO and he's still there today. Dave's younger son was also fun to be around...very lively and LOVED video games. I think he still does (big's hard to get men away from their toys, especially if they light up and make lots of noise...oops, rhyme...sorry).

All of these people (Ron & Dorothy plus Dave and both spouses) had such a permanent place in our family's lives. There are other couples that were "co-dancers" that kept tight friendships with Mom & Dad, but these examples stand out the most.

As far as Mom & Dad's dancing, I enjoyed seeing them on the floor. They always looked good together. They seemed to know each others' moves and worked them in with great ease. Mom and Dad both "cleaned up good" too, and whenever I watched them I could get a sense of what they looked like in their younger days.

When they got older, they didn't do as much fast dancing, but the slow dancing was still there. Mom's arthritis and Dad's health problems prevented a lot of the fast moves.

With Dad's passing, one thing always makes me wistful...for right now, he and Mom won't be dancing anymore.

Here's hoping Big Ernie has a dance floor up in heaven...and a really good DJ.