The first time I danced with my father was at home. I was eight or nine years old and I remember my sister and I took turns dancing with Dad while the stereo played, our bare feet atop his shoes. We had great fun twirling around and pretending we were princesses. And Daddy smiled right along with us.
Years later, I danced with my father at a wedding our family attended. And let me say this—standing on my dad’s feet as a little girl was a lot more fun than actually trying to keep in step with him as a teenager.
I did what I could to get out of it. “Dad, maybe we shouldn’t. I don’t know how to dance.”
“Just follow my lead,” he encouraged. “Do whatever I do, and you’ll be fine.”
In my head I tried to follow the old “one-two-three” method I’d seen on television shows and movies. But my father seemed to follow a different approach. Try as I might, I could not seem to keep up with him. I wound up stepping all over his polished shoes and almost tripped over them a couple of times.
When the song ended, I left the dance floor dejected, and watched as my dad continued to dance with mom. Sigh. They seemed so in tune with one another, twirling effortlessly across the floor like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. I wondered if I would ever be a good enough dancer to cut a rug with my father or with anyone else. Likely not.
Even at my own wedding, the situation failed to improve. Dad and I danced, or rather, attempted to. “Just follow me,” he said. “It’s easy.”
Easier said, than done.
Fast forward. Dad suffered congestive heart failure in 2004, and moved onto heavenly real estate. Mom survived him, but was diagnosed with Dementia. I often reminisce with her in an effort to stimulate memories. One day, I made a comment about my dismal dancing abilities and ended my sorrowful account with, “Too bad I never learned to dance as well as Dad.”
“What?” she perked up.
“Dance like Dad. You know.” I shrugged. “I wish I was as good a dancer as he was. You two used to dance all the time and you were great.”
With that, Mom started laughing.
“Mom?” I wondered what had set her off.
She had one hand over her face, shaking through a real side-splitter of a laugh. “Your dad?”
“What?” I wondered what she had to say about dad. Mom’s memories were mostly scattered and foggy to say the least.
“He couldn’t dance!”
Stunned, all I managed to do was stare. “He couldn’t?”
“He was a terrible dancer.” Mom kept on giggling.
“But I thought he was--”
She shook her head. “He thought he was a good dancer, but your father stepped all over my feet for years. He blamed it on everyone else, but he was all over the place. No one could follow or keep up with him.” She dabbed at her eyes. “Your dad couldn’t dance. He just thought he could.”
“Mom, are you kidding me?” All these years I thought I was miserable at keeping rhythm and pace. A woman with two left feet! And all along, my dad was the true culprit? Could it be that my dad was the one with the two left feet?
“Did everyone he danced with feel the same way?” I asked.
She giggled. “Yes, they all knew.”
I leaned forward. “All our family and friends?”
Mom gave me the nod.
“Well, I’ll be…” I did a twirl around the room, making use of the “one-two-three” method, wishing I could somehow stand on my daddy’s shoes again.
“I think I can dance after all, Mama!”
Mom smiled and shook her head. “So did your father.”