Conrad goes dancing five nights a week. Last night he danced with me. I use the word danced loosely. We shared three swing songs, Conrad and I. He gripped my hand and shuffled back and forth while I danced around him. For roughly nine minutes our lives intersected in a sort-of-swing on a Berkeley dance floor. But don't underestimate the impact of five-hundred and forty seconds.
Can I give you a visual on Conrad? Picture side-parted gray hair and big glasses; standing maybe 5'5" in his all-black-all-purpose Reeboks. Seventy-something years of life have traced a quiet story on his face. His right arm hangs semi-rigid at his side and he walks toward me with a stiff gate that I recognize all too well. Parkinson's, I would guess. When I smile at him the half-smile that hesitates at the corners of his mouth gives way to a delighted grin. "Will you dance with me?" Of course I will.
He has always loved to dance, Conrad confides. But his wife never enjoyed it. She felt too self-conscious, he muses without resentment. So for decades he never hit the floor. Not once. His wife passed away a couple of years ago. Now Conrad dances. His rediscovered passion has drawn him out of the house and helped him shed thirty pounds. Stellar. Someone remind me, in thirty years when my Parkinson's has progressed and life's losses have mounted, of Conrad. Remind me to dance--even if only in the loosest sense of the word.
And then there's beautiful, generous Stacey--dancing with Conrad and making him look like a million bucks. Bob and I drive to Berkeley to take the Lindy Hop classes Stacey teaches with her husband, Vaughn. I never tire of watching Vaughn and Stacey dance together--effortless, graceful, liquid Lindy. Their superb, unspoken synthesis of motion makes it hard to tell where one partner ends and the other begins. Each has his/her own best partner built-in when they arrive together at a social dance venue. Yet they dance with the Conrads and the Jeries in the room, awakening our inner Fred or Ginger for a moment. Someone remind me, today and tomorrow, to enter a room with eyes open to see the person who may need nine minutes face to face with another human being. Remind me to extend my hand and invite the souls around me to dance, in whatever sense they can.
Lead. Follow. Lindy. Life. You can learn a lot in five-hundred and forty seconds.