Monday, September 03, 2007

Take time for dancing

Most AU student readers probably won’t have spent much time in assisted living facilities or nursing homes, but you will. You will visit your grandparents and, later, your perents. Very likely, you will end your own lives in one.

This topic is particularly on my mind because of my father. As regular readers will know, he celebrated his 96th birthday in January. Between age 90 and 96, he traveled around Cape Horn and through the Panama Canal. He visited St. Petersburg. He traveled through the Suez Canal and walked into the crypts at pyramids. He likes travel and has traveling companions who enjoy his company. Once he was a world class tennis player (at a time when all such players were amateurs). Then he was a highly successful attorney. He retired early and has lived a full life, before and afterwards. Over the years he has coped gracefully with the fact that with aging, his life is becoming more physically limited and circumscribed. Though my mother often described him as “a bad patient.” he has coped with grace and often with wit.

Perhaps because of my father, and the example he has set, I payed particular attention to a poem I heard the other morning on Garrison Keilor’s “A Writer’s Almanac.” It airs every morning on NPR at about 7:50. It is also podcast and archived on line.

The poem is entitled "Meadowbrook Nursing Home" 

On our last visit, when Lucy was fifteen
And getting creaky herself, 
One of the nurses said to me,
"Why don't you take the cat to Mrs. Harris' room
— poor thing lost her leg to diabetes last fall —
she's ninety, and blind, and no one comes to see her."

The door was open. I asked the tiny woman in the bed
if she would like me to bring Lucy in, and she turned her head
toward us. "Oh, yes, I want to touch her."

"I had a cat called Lily — she was so pretty, all white. 
She was with me for twenty years, after my husband died too.
She slept with me every night — I loved her very much.
It's hard, in here, since I can't get around."

Lucy was settling in on the bed.
"You won't believe it, but I used to love to dance.
I was a fool for it! I even won contests. 
I wish I had danced more.
It's funny, what you miss when gone."
This last was a murmur. She'd fallen asleep.

I lifted the cat
from the bed, tiptoed out, and drove home.
I tried to do some desk work
but couldn't focus.

I went downstairs, pulled the shades, 
put on Tina Turner
and cranked it up loud
and I danced.
I danced.

(By Alice N. Persons, from Don't Be A Stranger. © Sheltering Pines Press, 2007)


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