Papa was an incredible dancer. Girls wanted to dance with him for that reason alone. It had nothing to do with how attractive he was or if they had a crush on him. Even his cousins would follow him to the dance halls, hoping to be twirled around the floor by Gus.
When I went to see him, after hospice called me, dancing is one of the things we talked about. During his surge, when suddenly he was himself, able to recall in perfect detail things from long ago, he talked to me about the dance halls and how he loved to dance.
On the other side of the bed, my mom told me that any time there was a wedding, she would be so excited. Later, she would major in dance at college, but as a little girl, the thrill of dancing with her father at a wedding filled her with joy. While we talked she said, “Anytime there was a wedding, I was always like, oooh!” She waggled her fingers in the air. “I get to dance with Dad.”
Papa always said that when he did die (morbid, I know) we had to play his favorite song–Glen Miller, In the Mood. If Papa didn’t get up and dance out of the casket, we were allowed to bury him.
After the church service and the service at the cemetery, after the military thanked him for his service, saluted him with 21 shots, folded the flag and presented it to my grandma, after people meandered off to their cars, I stood with my brother, my three cousins, Granny, Mom, and my Aunt. It was just us–the ones left. That alone hurt–the absence of him in out space.
My brother (who hates to be talked about on the blog but I cannot tell this story without him) is one of the toughest men I know. He is not one for affection or touching moments, to say the least. But he took out his phone and he played In the Mood.
It’s a happy song. It’s a song that makes you want to dance.
I think that is why it was Papa’s favorite.
It is also a long song. Or it felt long because we wanted it be long. It went on and on. All of standing there, apart but together, watching the casket as the cheerful melody went on. Papa did not get up and dance. We did not expect him to. But we let the song play out until the very end, all three minutes and thirty two seconds of it, our eyes on the box that held the body of the man we loved.
When the song ended, we all got into a huge SUV that fit all eight of us. We had no room for even one more person. We could let them bury him now.