As I grow older and enjoy new experiences, my mind cannot hold onto every memory. I wish I could recall more from my youth or even the countless treasured ones of my babies before they so quickly became young men. I try, but I can’t. I guess it’s why we take pictures and videos. It’s why we tell stories. My boys are fortunate enough to be growing up with their grandparents. Grandparents are great storytellers. Through them, we learn about who we are and where we come from.
One significant childhood memory I do hold, though, is of my parents dancing. I don’t remember how old I was when they took lessons. Old enough to remember how they looked as they practiced the Hustle in the living room, and young enough not to want to be anywhere else but on that couch watching them. Maybe I can recall that with such clarity because it wasn’t a one-time incident. They practiced all the time, for hours.
We took a family vacation every year until I was sixteen. Holiday dinners, summer barbeques and New Year’s Eve parties at my house were the norm. So, when my parents decided to separate in my eighteenth year, it came as somewhat of a surprise. My friends were shocked. But they dance together! was a common response. They never fight, was another.
I learned then that you don’t have to fight or hate each other to no longer want to be married. Sometimes, it happens. Even to two people who are fond of each other.
For twenty years since, I’ve had birthday parties for my children, holiday dinners and various gatherings. Both of my parents attended, every time, each with their significant others. Dad likes Mom’s husband and Mom likes Dad’s girlfriend. Sometimes, they talk and occasionally hang out without me involved. They buy each other Christmas and birthday gifts. It’s the best possible scenario for the child of divorced parents.
About four years ago, my mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. It’s taking its toll on a woman who was once vibrant, loud and full of energy. But it can’t squelch her drive to keep going. Mom joined a boxing class specifically for Parkinson’s patients. A put-up-your-dukes, hour long session where she pushes herself to stay strong. Its offered once a week. Not enough.
Earlier this year, my father married his long-time love. The wedding was beautiful, the guest list, intimate. Mom was there, as was her husband, her sisters and nieces. I kid you not. Mom’s family took up half the room. At one point, my father helped my mother to the dance floor. She was stiff and slow, but oh so happy.
Dad, an awesome dance instructor for over twenty years, decided to research the benefits of dancing for Parkinson’s patients. He put together a plan and presented it to my mother. Now, they get together every week. He teaches her to Rhumba, Hustle, Line Dance. She’s got the Electric Slide down. Her doctor can’t believe how her mobility has improved.
I’m thankful for so many things this year. But I count my blessings most for two people who have taught me, by example, that love comes in so many different forms. Though a marriage may not last, affection, respect and kindness endures.