It was my mistake. My bad.
I was visiting at Penney Farms—my favorite vacation destination—where 20% of the population is over the age of 90. Old people live in Florida; their parents live in Penney Farms.
My grandma has been laid up with wounds on her leg that have caused pretty severe pain, and my grandfather, now wheelchair bound, is pretty limited in how he can help her out.
So that’s how I made my mistake. I saw signs posted up all over campus advertising a square dance that evening. I thought I would be funny and suggest that we all go. It wasn’t that I needed something to do—If there’s one thing I didn’t need, it was something else to do.
Unfortunately, what I thought would be a funny idea was taken by my grandparents to be a great idea. For me. I said I wouldn’t go without them—thinking that would be the end of it, but it was not. I may be the only one of our little triumvirate with two good legs, but I do not wear the pants.
Grandpa was better than a secretary, reminding me several times including 15 minutes before and 5 minutes before. He was not about to let me out of this one. In fact, he instructed that I go inside and he would stay outside and watch from a distance through the glass doors.
So here I was, headed to my first dance. With my grandpa as a chaperone.
I don’t dance. I don’t know how.
My plan was to hide in the back as much as possible, watch a bit, and then sneak out and get some other things done that evening.
“We have a guest.” The caller boomed into the microphone after being prompted by one of the residents. The microphone was necessary—despite the rather small crowd—because, remember, these are folks in their golden years and hearing is no longer an asset.
“Her name is Danielle. This is her first time. We’re going to teach her to square dance.”
He proceeded to teach me to square dance via the microphone and my name—“Okay, Danielle…” and everyone would get to stand by and wait while he taught me the next step.
Most of the ladies had on skirts—some were “poofy” sticking almost straight out; some were matching with their partners. One lady was even complete with braids and a cowboy hat. Everyone there was north of 50 and most were north of 75. But they were there to have a good time and have a good time they did.
As the caller called the various steps, he often sang along with the words and many of the dancers joined in. I found myself being promenaded by a half-skipping gentleman singing “Zippidee-doo-dah” with a big grin. What choice did I have but to have fun too?
At the end of every dance, everyone would look around and say, “Did anyone get hurt?” And at the end of every two dances, they would stop the music and have a sit down break. During some of the breaks, one of the residents would get up and tell a joke or a story. This, one of them informed me, was the hot time in the old town that night.
And I had no doubt they were telling the truth.
Men were in high demand—there weren’t really enough of them to go around—so I felt a little bad that I got a steady stream of partners. This was no high school prom, though, and the other women were gracious—even sweet. I tried to sit a few out to make sure I wasn’t wearing out my welcome and one of the men sat out with me. We had just met for the first time.
Actually, this is at least the fourth time we have met for the first time—he has dementia. He asked a steady stream of questions while we waited and at one point asked me what I did. “I work in a law firm.” I said generically.
“You want to be a lawyer?” He asked, and then without waiting for a reply, he announced loudly to the group, “Danielle wants to be a lawyer!” I felt like an 8-year-old on career day. Apparently, he thought it was the best joke of the night.
The dance was just getting ready to start again when he asked, “where do you want to go to school?” but thankfully, the caller saved me from a long explanation by calling a Grand Square. I walked my four steps away, and left him hanging. We will have to start over next time anyway.
If you are ever hard up for compliments, I recommend hanging out with a group of people 50 years or so your senior. I was told how well I was doing and how quickly I caught on numerous times. The caller put it all in perspective though—“there are seven levels in square dancing.” He said. “This is level one.”
Earlier that day, I had been bemoaning the fact that I had forgotten the most critical part of my workout get up—shoes. It’s a little hard to run in boots and that’s all I had with me. God had just provided the perfect exercise for a woman in boots. Unfortunately, Caller burst that bubble too: “This is great exercise.” He said. “In two hours you’ll walk about three miles!”
Hmmm…Some people run a mile in four minutes. I would be walking a mile in forty. 1.5 MPH. That must be some kind of a record.
But forget the three miles…the two hours part! Shoot, this fun group of seniors was going to have me out way past my bedtime. But there was no escape. Pretty much every move I made was being boomed into the microphone.
But all good things must come to an end. This one ended with “Love Me Tender” which Caller—who is also an Elvis impersonator—sang convincingly (as did my partner with dementia). Then we asked, “Did anyone get hurt?” and we had a round of applause to celebrate that we had a full two hours of fun and no one got hurt.
So as it turns out… if suggesting a square dance is the biggest mistake I make this trip, I should at least be able return to Charleston unhurt. And, if nothing else, I’ve finally found some things I can look forward to about getting old and crazy: A chance to wear a poufy skirt to a party, singing Zippidee- doo-dah, and dancing with some of the nicest people on earth.
“Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.”