just another Sunday evening at the retirement home...
SHALL WE DANCE?
It was just another Sunday night at Cypress Woods Retirement Facility. The evening shift aides and I, the charge nurse, had gathered the residents to the community activity room for the usual Sunday musical entertainment. It was the highlight of the residents' week. The entertainment varied weekly and the quality, at best, was mediocre. But everyone loved hearing the songs of their youth, and the aides and I made it a point to dance and interact with those residents that were physically able. For me, it was a quiet closure to a generally hectic short-staffed week-end.
Anna, her abundant silver hair, coiled into a bun, dressed in an elegant caftan, sat front and center ensconced in her wheelchair, undisputed queen of her domain. Anna's tiny, contracted frame, a result of crippling rheumatoid arthritis, belied the large, luminous spirit that glowed within. Anna was no longer able to walk and her hands and fingers were becoming so knotted that she required assistance with feeding and dressing. She had once been a professional ballroom dancer and music remained her greatest pleasure.
I had come to know Anna well during the six-months she had been a resident at the facility. On recent quiet evenings I would steal a few minutes and sit with her to watch her beloved TV show, "Dancing with the Stars".
"John," she would lecture, "you must learn to dance. It is the hallmark of a polished gentleman."
I always insisted that I had no rhythym and two left feet. "My wife tried, Anna," I would laugh, "and even she couldn't teach me."
My wife, Maria, who had also loved dancing had died five years ago. A rare degenerative nerve disease had stolen her away. I had cared for her as best I could at home. Ultimately, she had been placed in a nursing facility. The nurses and staff had cared for her with such care and tenderness, that after her death, I quit my job, trained as a practical nurse, and came back to the facility to work. At times, when making my rounds, I was sure that I could smell the faint scent of the perfume she always wore.
Tonight's entertainers were new to our facility, Molly and Jay, brother and sister. Molly, was tiny, pixieish, with short, spiky, blonde hair and played the "fiddle". Jay, tall and willowy, with a long brown ponytail, accompanied his sister on acoustic guitar. I knew that our residents were thinking of their own children and grandkids.
Molly and Jay opened with a blistering tune they simply called "HoeDown".
In seconds, lethargic residents were alive, clapping their hands, and some of the aides were attempting a do-si-do. The music took us all back to simpler times and remembering the important things in life. The kids segued to some old familiar hymns and rousing patriotic tunes. Anna's cheeks were glowing and her eyes shining bright. For their final song, Molly announced she would be playing a solo called "Lover's Waltz".
The community room vibrated from the note-bending, heart-tugging tenor of her violin strings. I glanced at Anna and saw tears beginning to well in her eyes. I sensed a familiar perfume in the air and in my head heard Maria's voice urging me on. Coming to Anna's wheelchair, I bent over gently and asked, "Would you care to dance?". Without hesitation, she smiled and said simply, "I thought you'd never ask." Carefully lifting her from the chair, I cradled her in my arms, and we slowly waltzed the perimeter of the room.
The violin's notes drifted away and I settled Anna back in her chair. It was just another Sunday night at Cypress Woods Retirement Facility.
WON SECOND PLACE!