We share the far left corner of the back row, tucked behind a succession of synchronized seventy-something seniors; a line of ladies with lustrously teased hair, forgiving waist bands, and festive holiday sweaters. Each takes a turn, twisting to catch a glimpse, then signals the next in line with a quick elbow jab to the gut, “Look at him go, he’s really something.” I am to his right, just within reach; his cane is silenced in the lap of a plastic cushioned arm chair accompanied by a mound of down coats, crocheted scarves and unzipped handbags. “Zumba!” shouts the instructor as she whips her top-knot ponytail counter clockwise, shimmies her well shaped shoulders and steps left. Her zealous performance is contagious and we do our best to keep up, “Stretch your hands high, and move your feet, now shake, shake, shake to the right!” Although he’s famous for having 2 left feet, his stooped Parkinson's posture, quick-step shuffle, and rocking horse tremors infuse with the sharp rhythm and strong Latin beat; he is a dancing machine.
Everything about this is new to us; the music, the movement, but mostly, the shared experience. I don’t have many memories of us doing things together, unless you count being in a car. As kids he took us skiing but I don’t remember actually skiing with him. He’d leave me at the top of a mountain and wait for me at the bottom. If I couldn’t find him I’d know to look in the bar.
“You did great Dad,” I assure him.
“I farted,” he admits.
“I thought you crapped your pants”
“No, just farted”
“Good for you, way to hold back”
This is NOT my favorite topic of conversation but discussing his bodily functions has become the norm.
I don’t expect him to master a soulful salsa or samba, but I am catching as many memories as I can. Every hardship holds a cryptic message. My father’s Parkinson’s has slowed him down just enough for us to get to know each other.