83: Dancing

83: Dancing

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Possible


Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass… It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

~Vivian Greene

My Uncle Bernie and Aunt Betty were curious to see my mother’s new building — a seniors residence just around the corner from their condominium. Mom was scheduled to move the next week, but still had packing to do before she could vacate her apartment. Anxious about meeting the deadline set by the movers, she waved us out of the condo to continue packing in peace, encouraging us to take the afternoon off to explore what would soon be her new home.

Upon entering the gracious and spacious lobby, my uncle looked around in a disapproving fashion and said, “I’ve always disliked places like these. They’re full of old people walking with canes and walkers, or confined to a wheelchair… and now I am one.”

Uncle Bernie had been a strapping young man who served in India during World War II. Known always for his sweet demeanor and gentle ways, he had married Betty, a bubbly Brit and the love of his life, in 1953. While never blessed with children of their own, they were loved by their many nieces and nephews. Bernie and Betty went everywhere together and enjoyed an active and rewarding life. That is, until Bernie’s arthritis moved into his spine in a most unwelcome fashion.

It had been a rough year. He had lost forty-five of his 159 pounds, had trouble swallowing, and suffered constant discomfort from his rapidly deteriorating arthritic condition, unable to walk without the help of a cane. He was worn out by the walk from the car to the lobby, so I suggested he sit in one of the handsome chairs in the lobby while my aunt and I looked around a bit.

Within moments after his settling in, the friendly voice of a woman standing hunched over a walker nearby called out, “Bernie! Betty! It’s me… Kelly!”

Upon receiving a quick introduction, I was told that Kelly and her husband, Bill (who had materialized like an impish spirit behind my uncle’s chair) had been my aunt and uncle’s neighbors at their nearby condominium.

“So, Bernie… how are you doing?” Kelly queried with a broad smile and open heart.

“Horrible, just horrible,” was my uncle’s answer.

“Now Bernie,” she chided, “nobody in this building is horrible. We’re all doing great.”

“So Bernie… are you moving in?” asked Bill.

“Oh no,” Bernie replied. “My sister just bought an apartment here. This is my niece. We stopped by to see the place before Rose moves in next month.”

“What floor will she be on?” Kelly asked.

“Nine,” I piped up.

“Oh good; then she’s not sick,” Kelly said.

“I don’t understand.”

“We’re on the second floor because we need more oversight through Assisted Care. Your mother is on an upper floor, which is reserved for Independent Living. We have our own dining room on two, and get three full meals a day — even in our apartments if need be. It’s quite comprehensive. They take good care of us, monitoring our medications and so on.”

“So, tell me about your mother,” Bill said, abruptly changing the subject with a slight twinkle in his eye. “Can she dance?”

“Well, she’s having a hard time walking right now, but she was ‘The Queen of the Lindy Hop’ in her earlier years,” I said with a laugh.

“Aw… walking is hard, but dancing is easy!” Bill said, a thick shock of white hair emphasizing his sparkling blue eyes. “No problem. I’ll get her up on the dance floor, you’ll see!”

“I’m going to hold you to that promise,” I chuckled, hoping that perhaps this light-hearted spirit might be able to shake her from her doldrums.

Looking at his watch, Bill turned back to my aunt and uncle. “Bernie, Betty — it’s been great to see you again, but we need to get going. Kelly has to grab that bus or she’ll miss her doctor’s appointment,” he said apologetically.

Acknowledging the need to depart with a small shrug, Kelly leaned over her walker to momentarily touch my uncle’s hand.

“We’ll see you soon, Bernie. When you come to visit your sister,” she said gently. “Guess I’ve gotta go. My doctor has another round of chemotherapy planned for me as part of my post-operative treatment. I just had a mastectomy, you know.”

Somewhat taken aback, my uncle nodded, the impact of her words rendering him temporarily speechless. We then bid fond adieus as Kelly maneuvered her walker in the direction of the lobby’s front door to meet the waiting bus.

It was only at that moment that I could see Bill’s full frame as he left his position behind my uncle’s chair. This joyous, elfin sprite was gripping two metal canes tightly, one in each hand for support, the result, we learned later, of a recent stroke. Awkwardly throwing one leg in front of the other, he propelled himself forward to catch up with Kelly, who was approaching the shuttle bus.

I was dumbfounded as I watched his labored gait. Pausing for a brief moment, Bill looked back at me over one shoulder, and with a smile that simply melted my heart, reiterated the words that will forever ring through my soul.

“Like I said… walking is hard… but dancing is easy!”

~Sue Ross

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