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Daddy Danced

A lifelong athlete and WWII Navy Pilot, Dad had always been muscular and handsome.

Then several years ago after surgery for a cerebral hemorrhage, he was unable to walk and became forgetful. Then last year at 89, he began to improve.

Going to physical therapy twice a week, he was soon able maneuver the machines, though still unable to walk.

As he improved he set a goal for his 90th birthday, to take the family to Florida and celebrate with dinner and dancing.

Mom and Dad were married during the “Big Band Era” – the Queen and King of jitterbug contests. Unfortunately dancing wouldn’t occur again, according to his Doctor. But still Dad exercised and trained for his “big event.”

In all honesty, none of us – especially Mom – envisioned this actually coming to pass.

But were we ever wrong! We agreed to the Florida trip, and Daddy kept talking about the big dance coming up. The only dinner and dance club we could find was BB King’s House of Blues. Hundreds of people gather there on weekends, none of whom celebrated their 90th birthday there.

After a four-course steak dinner, I noticed Mom visibly nervous and very apprehensive. Daddy hadn’t walked by himself in three years, and Mom dreaded “the dance”. We explained that when they announced his birthday, my brother would help Daddy to the dance floor and hold him up while they symbolically danced and swayed for 30 seconds or so; but Dad had different plans.

As the club was jam-packed, seated at the front table were two nice young executives in Florida on business. They kindly and graciously agreed to let our parents sit at their table a few minutes until the band’s lead singer announced Dad’s birthday. Four songs later, my brother was standing by while our parents chatted with the men.

Finally, the moment arrived. As they announced the birthday of a 90-year-old World War II Veteran, I gripped my video camera and my brother gripped my Dad. I shamefully admit my intention was to capture a few seconds of my parents swaying, without showing my brother behind Dad. All I remember is praying, “God please help Daddy stay up!” Although I do believe in miracles, what transpired next, even I couldn’t believe. The entire dance floor cleared, including my brother! I saw panic on Mom’s face, but it was indeed short-lived. Through a soulful, bluesy four-minute rendition of “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” Dad and Mom danced, embraced, and even kissed as hundreds of young people wildly applauded the fulfillment of a promise to himself and his bride of 68 years.

I wish I could say Dad walked alone back to our table, his legs perfectly healed; but that had not been his promise – or our prayer.

As my brother helped him through the crowd, there were cheers, tears, and a standing ovation for the beautiful white-haired couple who were still celebrating life. Unexpectedly, one of the young men from the front walked back and announced that he paid the entire bill for our table – steaks, drinks, – everything. Through tears he explained, “I recently went through a nasty divorce. Seeing them so in love after 68 years gave me renewed hope that God may have the right one still waiting for me.” Perhaps this was for him, and all, that in that miraculous, magical moment, on his 90th birthday, Daddy danced!

Read more posts by Debra Peppers, Ph.D., here. Dr. Peppers blogs for JenningsWire.