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Wednesday, 04 March 2009

Can I Have This Dance for the Rest of My Life?

By Frank M. Calabria

Last weekend, my wife and I went to a dance held at the Polish Community Center in Albany. As we entered the ballroom, I noticed on the far side of the room a number of men and women seated in wheel chairs. I soon learned that they were from a nearby nursing home and had been invited to be guests, at this evening’s dance, sponsored by Dance USA.

I thought it was an inspired idea. The program, for the evening, was designed to help our twelve guests become active participants, not merely observers, at the dance. Members of Dance USA had each volunteered to help out. To begin the evening program, each volunteer wheeled their passenger to the center of the dance floor and proceeded to whirl them around and around. I wondered how our guests felt being whirled about, an experience they probably never had had before.

The next part of the programs included parading our guests around the perimeter of the dance floor to the song, Could I Have This Dance for The Rest of My Life? Some drivers pushed their wheel chair from behind. Others took hold of the side handle of their wheel chair and began improvising dance step as they paraded their passenger round the floor. A few drivers chose to pull their wheel chair from in front, so that driver and passenger might make eye contact.

As I watched the parade of wheel chairs, I counted only ten chairs in motion. What happened, I wondered, to the occupants of the two remaining chairs? I looked in the direction where all twelve chairs had been located and notice that two chairs had remained in place.

I took a closer look and saw that nearby the two chairs, a couple were on their feet simulating the movements of a dance. I noted that this couple danced in time with the music with movements that were not ungraceful. They attempted to support each other by holding up their partner’s elbows. In light of their being aged and infirm, my admiration for their daring performance increased tenfold.

As they swayed to the music, I became more and more curious how it was that this one couple had chosen this course of action. At the end of the dance, I approached them to express not only my admiration, but also, to question them about their life story. Briefly, this is what Bill Jameson told me:

“We met at a dance over fifty years ago. I asked her to dance when the band played Can I Have This Dance for The Rest Of My Life? Ever since that evening, we have been dancing together.”

Jean Jameson added: “When we could no longer take adequate care of ourselves and take care of each other, we went to the nursing home where we now live. It is true that we are no longer young and we do have problems moving around, but that has not stopped us from dancing together.”

Their story brought tears to my eyes. Here was a couple who had had the courage to go their own way together. They continue to live out the lyrics of the song, Can I Have This Dance for The Rest Of My Life.

I’ll always remember the song they were playing,
The first time we danced and I knew.
As we swayed to the music and held to each other,
I fell in love with you.
Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?
Would you be my partner every night?
When we’re together it feels right.
Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?

When the dance ended, I walked to the parking lot arm-in-arm with my wife. I began humming the song that had brought this couple together. Suddenly, I realized that it was the same song my wife and I danced to when first we met.

Perhaps meeting this couple tonight was not just an accident but what C.G. Jung would call a “meaningful coincidence.” Whatever the explanation, I had found a couple to model ourselves after in the years ahead. We would “dance together for the rest of our lives…because it felt right.”

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Here is a video of the song sung by Anne Murray. 3:27 minutes]

[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post



What a sensational story! It is inspiring to hear of couples so devoted to each other.
I think it's remembrances like that that this website is all about.

Chester Baldwin

What a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing.

Frank, this is priceless. My husband is in a wheelchair and loves to dance. He's even in a dance class. How well you told this story and how it needs to be told. Physically challenged people can do so much more that we think and they appreciate their abilities instead of their disabilities. Good job!

A lovely story, and a lovely song.

I had one slight wonder, a further reflection - how much choice did the wheelchair users have about the way they were "danced"?

I've seen situations where the fact that someone is old and a wheelchair user seems to lead to an assumption that they will be grateful for any intervention.

I use crutches and sometimes a wheelchair (wheeling myself); I HATE being pushed by other people, although friends are often keen to do so. I walk with the crutches and they push the empty wheelchair - so that I can sit down in it when I need to. Weird maybe but it works for me!
The older I get (72) the more determined I am to do things in the way that works for me.

Love will find a way!

This shared story brings shared memories. I too met my wife on the dance floor. It was the last dance of the evening. It took me that long to get the nerve to ask. Even then I didn't use words; only a gesture. I was so swept that she was in my arms, I forgot the song that was playing. That was over fifty years ago. Perhaps I'll adopt this one. Thank you, Frank.

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