Restringing the Necklace and Half Full, Half Empty
By Elita Sohmer Clayman
Ethan, age three years and one and half months, went to preschool, he is now six years old, which used to be called nursery school when his father went there. He had been there for the third time that week and on the first day he had a tear or two when Mommy left. The teacher told my daughter-in-law to go in the hallway and they would see what would happen. She did and she saw he was fine and she left and when she picked him up three hours later, he was happy to see her and had a good time. The next day, his daddy dropped him off and Ethan saw a classmate with tears and his nose was running. So darling sweet Ethan got a Kleenex and wiped the running nose to comfort his friend. The teacher told my son that was the sweetest thing she had ever seen in a young child of that age. She has been teaching preschoolers for over twenty years.
Ethan shows already at his young age the compassion and kindness that I taught my children and that his parents are teaching him. Of course, all grandparents think their grandchildren are smart, articulate, beautiful and kind. I know for a fact that my three grandsons are all of that and more and Ethan, who is the youngest grandson, exhibited it yesterday. Ava, his four-year-old sister, will be doing the same when her time comes for school and social contacts.
Grandparenting is different than parenting because we are so much older and we can stand aside and absorb the wonderful light that shines upon us because of who we are now in this later senior life and be proud of the excellent mission we have accomplished. Grandparenting almost in a way can be analogous to ballroom dancing. How in the world can that be? Here is how. Having a new grandchild or first grandchild is new, exciting, fresh and bewildering. So can starting to dance at a later age, as is grandparenting. It is exciting, fresh and quite full of bewilderment. We look at it as a challenge and we realize that as we progress (as the baby gets older) we have this wonderful thing in our hands and we can be ecstatic in learning all about it.
We are proud and one day when we watch the baby without his parents there, we are cognizant of what has just happened. We did it and we had fun and so it is with dancing. We did it, we had fun, and we are proud of our self. So having a grandchild is certainly more important than ballroom dancing, but the two of them are delightful moments, hours, and days in our life. Life is full of learning experiences, some great, others not so special.
We can take good moments and secure those in our minds to ease the bad times when they happen. It will simply outweigh the difficult times and our tears will be tears of joy, not tears of sadness. We have grown from this experience, whether sad or happy. We have flourished, strived, and matured.
We can wipe a tear from a fellow dancer (so to speak) by trying to establish in their minds that they can learn to dance at any age whether advanced or young. Some people, when starting out, feel that it is too late to learn ballroom dancing. A reader of my columns by the name of Steven Behr living in Washington State wrote me of the spreading of dancing he and his partner do. He is a member of the Steilacoom Dance Company, a group of seniors directed by Mary Peterson who is the teacher and choreographer. The dance company goes to hospitals and nursing/retirement homes to celebrate their dancing modes. They perform tap, ballroom, and Polynesian dances at these establishments.
25 years, Mary and Steven have been going to Hawaii, sharing the love of dance they have at hospitals, nursing homes and senior and community centers. The couple goes there at their own expense; the others in the group do not due to the cost of traveling. I have written about them in a former article a few weeks ago. When Steven and Mary went on their last trip to Hawaii, he asked a petite lady named Matsuko, who had been sitting for the entire session, to dance with him. She told him she had not danced for 50 years. He got her to dance by coaxing her a bit, and he moved around with her in place. He said she had good balance, and they started with a basic Foxtrot step. Very soon thereafter she told him she was 104 years old. The people stopped dancing and started to clap. Steven thought they were clapping for him but it was for Matsuko. Of course, Steven is modest; they were applauding both of them. She became the queen of the ball. He asked her about her longevity and she said it was "attitude." I guess her attitude was one of good health, good feelings, and being blessed with excellent genes.
Mary and Steven believe that "the glass is half full and that each day brings many opportunities for growth, sharing and fun." They feel that they are role models wherever they go to spread their love of dancing. In Hawaii, they are considered ohna which means family; the Hawaiians share the aloha spirit with them. Steven and Mary are both semi-retired seniors.
Half full and half empty is a lovely expression that we all use. There was a famous pianist that lived in Baltimore, Maryland where I am from, who lost the use of his right hand in playing the piano due to an illness. He in turn learned to play with his other hand and gave concerts doing so. Many years later through therapy and operations, he was able to use both hands in the normal manner. He always said that his glass was still half full when he lost the use of that hand. His name is Leon Fleisher.
The pianist and the 104 year young lady, they needed no tear to be wiped from their eyes. Their eyes were and are wide open and they can see the depth of the ethereal time on this earth we all have. Our journey here is exquisite and we all can make the most of what we are given and even if some of it is taken away, we can still be drinking the full glass of crystal-clear times and we can help those who may not be fortunate as we are to accomplish new things and special moments. That is why I write these columns to inspire people to go dance and to be full of light in their senior and not yet senior lives. People are living longer and healthier lives now and we all must take the time to mind the word aloha which means hello and goodbye as does the Hebrew word shalom which also means the same thing. Hello to ballroom dancing and Goodbye to sadness. We are dancers and we are special
So attitude can be beneficial to our minds and thoughts. A lady here in Baltimore, Maryland named Esperance Sutton said in a newspaper article that "Life gives you a broken necklace, you just restring the beads." What a good line. When things go wrong, it is like the non-functioning of something important and you go ahead and rehabilitate and rejuvenate the bad happening. From there, you start anew and go forward. You have wiped the tear from your face or mind, and you have courage now to function in a most desirable manner. You have restrung the damaged jewelry and wear it now proudly because it is your jewel of life.
Ballroom dancing is like no other sport. When you are connected to the person you are dancing with now, then you and him or her become almost one. You may be strangers not even knowing one another's names but you have one thing in common. You are both out there on the wooden dance floor trying to accomplish something solid for at least three to four minutes. You are doing so to speak a routine of feet and arm and hand movements to music usually coming from a disc jockey and DVDs. You may make some small talk about this and that and then you as the lady proceeds to try and figure out this language of dance, which truly is a language of a different sort. He, as the leader, is thinking what he will do next and prays that you, as the stranger, will be able to decipher his movements with his hands. It is truly a language of unusual components. There is a fundamental list of factors in the dance language which must be interpreted by both parties.
Once a person figures what the partner wants (the leader), then she follows and almost is overwhelmed that she understood his movements. When a couple dances almost always together, it is easier to know what the other is meaning and to be confident in what they are doing and you are completely at ease. As one dances again and again with that same person, the dancing becomes exciting and fun and the couple has a fine time that day. Some teachers do not connect with a particular student because they do not have the ease in teaching. Others are so adept at imparting the knowledge that after only one or two lessons, the student is enthralled with this dancing hobby and keeps coming back for more. There will be no tear to wipe from the eye or from the heart because they are already installed in this form of exercise and delight.
To anyone attempting the thought to go out and dance and then hesitates, do not let the cogitation leave you. Shakespeare said "thoughts are dreams till their effects are tried." Surely, we have to try our dreams out and see the effects become reality. Thoughts are like strands that become a necklace we wear around our heart. Our heart leads us unto this journey down or rather up a road of unbelievable lanes. The lane leads to an avenue of beautiful homes. The home is what dancing becomes to us; a home of bountiful beliefs that we can attain happiness by moving our bodies, no matter how old or young into very desirable rooms of euphoria. We need not restring the necklace because it is already looking very pretty.
Thomas Jefferson said "Happiness is occupation and tranquility." When we are occupied with our dancing, we are surely feeling serene and peaceful. Our glass is completely full and any tears we may have are ones of joy and completion. The necklace lies right next to our heart. Wear it with good health.