THE NINTH NOEL: A TIME FOR DANCING
On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, nine ladies dancing.
I don't see much dancing during the Christmas season these days. In fact, I don't see much dancing at all. What's up with that? Human beings dance. It's basically why we are upright. Not dancing is basically why we are uptight. And the most human folks have a way of moving like they are dancing even when they aren't.
I know, I know, wag your heads. We are pretty sober here in the midwest, so we've got to be careful, we've got to watch out. We are afraid of stepping on anyone's toes. Literally. But perfect love casts out fear. And toes heal. But the damage done by not dancing is emotional and physical and spiritual and may not heal so easily, especially since those damaged may not realize that they are.
Nine ladies dancing. I'm in. Make it a line to "You can call me Al." That's what Missy and Nathan and little Lauren, when she was that little, did at Noel and Joann's wedding party. I didn't dance much in those days. But I cut loose, so to speak, for the occasion. Didn't want to waste completely the money my parents had spent sending me to dance school in the 6th grade so I could learn to be civilized.
Fact is, Cyclopes (to which I've been compared) don't dance. Just read Homer. They are the original "un-men" who are never social, never transported out of themselves, never aesthetically-minded, never aware of their bodies as sites of pleasures other than the obvious urges. Humans? They dance. It's what they do. What they have always done. It's a gift. The gift of our true love. At Christmas.
Basketball is like a dance in some ways, but with more obvious goals. Still, some play the game like dancers, with more at stake than counting the score. They are the ones I like best. The style with which they move and turn and fly and complement their partner is a kind of loving gesture to the maker of the body and the joy of movement.
I have this crazy notion of starting dance groups in retirement homes and nursing "facilities" or whatever we call them now. Get up. Stand up. Move. It's like shuffleboard guys. Without the board. Or the shuffle. But with Little Richard screaming out "Tutti-Frutti."
It gets harder and harder of course as you get older, but our culture doesn't help. I'm not talking about Footloose for seniors, although it's intriguing now that I mention it. We have this big emphasis these days on movement, walking, do something for half an hour every day, etc. But rarely do I hear dancing offered as a solution. Emo music doesn't help matters any. Can I hear you say . . . Shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, your boo-tay?
When you've been in a hospital for as long as Noel was, lying on your back, just turning over on your side is heroic, an awkward but lovely dance in context. I helped him do that back in October and even a few times in November, earlier on when he was communicating better. It must be difficult not to move when you want to. Towards the end, when he was anxious, he would try to rip wires off and pull tubes out. I think he was just getting exercise.
At one point, I started a kind of arm wrestling with his good hand and arm, the left one. We'd provide resistance to each other, and, though his arm seemed scrawny and his muscles atrophied, he still had a heck of push. When we weren't there with him, they would strap that hand down.
I don't think Noel had used up his quota of dance steps by the time he couldn't move any more. That's a shame, as much as all the other things that I resent about his dying. It kills me that he's not going to dance with Joann at their 20th or 25th. Or with Krista at her wedding. I sure as hell plan to, brother. Count on that.
I'm sitting here at the old trestle. About the only movement on this snowy day has been to make lentil soup, take out the dog, and walk upstairs eleven or twelve times to tell Jenny to get up.
Monday I start moving again. And I think I just figured out my one real New Year's resolution. I don't think I've used my quota.
Thanks for the dance classes, mom and dad. Not sure I remember how to jitterbug, but Mrs. Ray didn't tell you parents that, at the end of class, she put on the Beatles and the Supremes and we danced the fly and the swim and locomotion and the jerk and whatever else we called that one basic thing this cute girl named Theresa and I used to do. I can start there and work my way up to the fox trot and stuff. After all, I'm a human being. I ain't no Cyclopes.
And, dear reader, if you're hanging with me when I'm in that hospital bed, just grab my hand and give me some pressure. I'll remember what to do.
Nine ladies dancing. This one makes sense. Turn it up, Mister DJ. Can you play "Dancing Queen"?