I’ve experienced one of the most magical, wonderful moments I’ll ever know in my life. There is no doubt that I got my love of dancing from the sweet woman that is my grandmother, because during my cousin’s recent wedding reception, the 85 year old woman jumped out of her wheelchair not once, not twice, not three times, but countless times throughout the evening to dance, and no joke, she shut the place down. I left at midnight, and I hear she kept dancing until about 1am.
The wedding was a lovely event held at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles. At one point while my brother and cousins and I were outside the reception hall taking pictures with the dinosaurs, my father came running out and in complete elation and excitement was telling us that my grandmother jumped out of her wheelchair because she wanted to dance, and that he danced with her, and now she was asking for us to dance with her.
So, of course we ran back into the reception hall to dance with her. Let me just say, for the rest of the night I practically forgot it was my cousin’s wedding, because all I wanted to do was dance with my grandmother, or when I wasn’t, watch her steal the show and dance with every familiar and strange face in the room. It was a moment in my life I will never forget.
The magic of music and dance was stirring something amazing in the night. To dance with my grandmother was a heaven sent. The first time I danced with her, I was so afraid when she let go of my hand, but it was as if she never needed the assistance of a wheelchair or a cane. It was mesmerizing. I kept joking with her, telling her that she’s been fooling us this whole time with her wheelchair act. That little old woman owned that dancefloor. Actually, I’d say she owned the night.
Every now and then she’d take a break for a few short seconds, but quickly enough her dementia would set in and she’d forget and jump back up to dance as if she was just joining in on the fun for the first time. What a thrill it was. The even more incredible thing was that it didn’t matter if we were dancing to Earth, Wind, and Fire, or Kesha, she kept in time in all the proper swing steps.
When I tried to leave and wish her goodnight, she gathered my brother and I to start a Congo line, so of course we Congo-ed our hearts out. Jane Austen wrote in Pride & Prejudice, that “To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love.” I now fully realize the truth in that statement. My family is a lot of dancing fools, and dancing fools who love to love. Lost in the daze of this most wondrous event, I fell in love over and over again. I fell in love with the incredible woman that my grandma is, I fell in love with the incredibly tight knit family I have, I fell in love with my most incredible man, and I fell in love with my incredible life. This isn’t to say that this is the first time I realized all this love. No, of course not. I simply fell in love again. Like every time my grandmother got up to dance as though she was getting up for the first time to join the party, I fell in love again, over and over again, with all these blessings in my life, just like the first time.
I’ve seen movies and have read about music and its effect on our minds, but to experience this magic is like no joy I’ve ever known. Some might say my grandmother is plagued with the disease of dementia, but to be honest, I think there’s also a few great blessing in her disease. My grandmother will say she doesn’t remember, but when I start playing Hank Williams for her, she will start smiling and singing. The same is with her dancing.
There are times when I see her, and I feel a little sad, because I think that maybe “getting old” is sad for her. As a child, she dragged me around the world with her via plane, boat, train, and long roadtrips in the car. So, to see her lack energy or feel she is “too old” for certain things makes me sad. Yet, once more, music has proven to be an unalterable power that bonds us in the human experience, and we see that instead of life happening to us, we are happening to life.