Saturday, March 25, 2017

Tommy Dorsey, Myron, and Me

Last Thursday, the Tommy Dorsey Band played a local venue. Naturally, I dressed up in my 40s-style dress, curled my hair, added some flowers in true '40s style, and put on some vintage-looking shoes. When I arrived, I wasn't too surprised to see a bus with the name of a retirement community on the side, and there were several elderly people heading toward the dance hall. Didn't bother me a bit. I was there to listen to music and to forget the problems of the last few months.

The venue itself is like stepping back in time. It opened in 1929 and not a lot has changed. Numbered booths with wooden benches line both sides of the dance hall and there are tables covered in white cloths sprinkled around the floor. The bathrooms are painted in turqoise and have shell-shaped sinks. Yes, shell-shaped!

Once inside, I realized I would undoubtedly be one of the few there under the age of 60. But I didn't care.. In fact, I felt completely at home. I've always fared better with the older generations (which is probably why I gravitate to history and specifically, World War II history). I count my 91-year-old grandmother among my best friends.

About five minutes after I arrived, I grabbed a drink (diet soda, of course) and headed for an open spot which wasn't easy as many places were reserved. I found a booth and was just about to deposit my coat on the bench when the man in the booth next to me said, "You here alone? Need a dance partner?"

Little did I know that this simple question would spark a conversation that would last the majority of the night. The gentleman, who was in his 70s, introduced himself as Myron and immediately asked if I could help him find women to dance with. And even date. So I proceeded to ask him what he liked. And of course, he told me.

  • Can't sit around the house all day
  • Has a job
  • Likes to dance (of course!)
  • Not too heavy
  • Likes to go places
  • Must be younger than him

The band was late that night - bus trouble, I believe - so Myron and I had plenty of time to talk. I learned a great deal about him and what he'd done in his life, and believe me, there was never a shortage of things to discuss. Once in awhile he'd stop his conversation and point out another woman. "What about her? Do you think she'd dance with me?" Then there were times he "went cruising", as he called it. He'd walk around the dance hall, see if any women sparked his interest, and if so, he'd ask if they'd like to dance once the band got there. He even asked me if I wanted to dance, but I politely refused. I was there to listen to the music and that's it.

At one point, he gave me his card and said, "If you can find dates for me, I'll pay you $100 per date." Now I'm slightly broke, but still, the idea of finding women to go on dates with Myron didn't exactly appeal to me.

When the band finally arrived, Myron did his thing and went looking to cash in on those "saved dances." But soon enough, he'd come back and start regaling me with how good (or bad) his dance partner was. At one point, I encouraged him to ask a woman sitting across from us to dance. He said, "She looks too old." (Apparently, Myron wanted someone in her 60s that still had pep in her step). But I said, "She looks nice. I bet she'll dance with you." And lo and behold, he asked her and they went out to the dance floor. He even came back to her table with her and they chatted for awhile.

But alas, it did not last. Myron ended up back in the booth beside mine and lamented that this woman was "too bitter," undoubtedly the result of an ex-husband (or two or three). Once again, with the band playing in the background, he launched into tales of his daughter and his son, of the Australian fellow he met in New Orleans, of his childhood on the farm growing potatoes, of the ex-wife he was married to for 13 years that apparently was 13 years too long. He thought Frank Sinatra was too pompous and preferred Dean Martin. Cary Grant was okay by him, and he agreed that North By Northwest was a good movie. Music, however, was his passion. He loved to listen to it, loved how it moved people's souls.

"You know, you are delightful," Myron told me. "You're just delightful to talk to."

I thanked him, thinking that he was rather delightful, too.

Myron ended up leaving early because the music was too loud and it bothered his ears. He said, "I was serious about you finding me dates. Call me!"

I smiled, said goodbye, and watched as he made his way toward the door, stopping at a few tables and trying to get one more dance. He looked up at me and blew kisses my way. I waved, shaking my head in amusement.

I spent the remainder of the night listening to the band, watching the people around me, and realizing that this night had been illuminating in a lot of ways.

We tend to think that the elderly are "done" with life, content to just let the days pass. Nothing could be further from the truth. Beneath the bravado, Myron was deeply lonely. He wanted someone to share his days with. He wasn't yet done experiencing life. And all around me, I saw more of the same. Older couples dancing, holding hands, dressed in their best, smiling, laughing, living.

And they encouraged me to do the same.

I hope in the coming months and years, I will push myself more out of my comfort zone. I, too, want to experience more and live more. This world is full of beauty and awe, and it can be found everywhere: across town, across the state, across the country, or even across the world.

So thanks, Myron, for reminding me of how wonderful this life really is.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Digging Into (My) Past

One of the great things about my blog is that I can go back several years to see what life was like. Today, I went back to 2009 when I divorced my husband. I never made this public, but we divorced in 2009 and got married again in 2010. Foolish me thought it work work this time.

One post in particular hit me in the gut.

Raising a daughter and two stepsons, and dealing with the "bad" things in my marriage had been difficult. I found my self-esteem starting to drop and I developed a rather craven attitude (to me) of wanting to stay in the house all the time, not meet new people, not do new things. In short, I wanted to be "safe." I could control the world in my house - to an extent. (Or so I thought. I realize now that I wasn't controlling it at all - it was controlling me). I couldn't control the outside world. So I stayed in the safe zone.

Wow. That could almost describe my life in the past two years. I retreated from the world, never wanted to go out, and was in my "safe zone." Part of it was my health worsening, but part of it was also living in a marriage that I refused to believe could not be saved. I hung on and on. When we'd get into another fight, I knew it would blow over and we'd resume as normal - until the next one. On and on this went.

Reading those past posts, I feel incredibly foolish for having married him a second time. But when I made that decision in 2009, I truly thought he'd changed. He seemed like a different man and I thought it would be different. But as the months and years went by, he reverted back to the one I'd left in the first place.

Some lessons in life are learned the hard way. In this case, the really hard way.

Since the split, I've made it a point to go out and do more, to experience new things and meet new people. I did that Friday night for St. Patrick's Day. And I'll do it again this week when I go see the Tommy Dorsey Band play. Already I feel like I'm finding myself again, finding that woman who used to crave adventure and enjoyed discovering the world. Somehow, she got lost.

No more.

It's time to take care of me now. It's time to listen to that inner voice and learn to embrace the unknown. It's time to see what's out there in this big, wide world.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Keeping Busy

One of the best ways to deal with a divorce is to stay busy. And to that end, you could say I've been an over-achiever!

My father had heart surgery in Denver earlier this week. On Monday, I flew to Denver and then spent the next three days with him in the hospital. I'm happy to report he came through the surgery incredibly well and is due to go home today. A true blessing! I flew back home Wednesday night and went back to work on Thursday.

As today is St. Patrick's Day, I'm going out with friends after work today.

Next week, my mother is having surgery (I know! Both parents in two weeks!), but thankfully, it will be here in my own city, so no travel is involved! But I'll be taking her to the hospital for that, then helping her with the recovery process. Next week I also have to give a presentation about my book, and on that same night, I'm going to the Tommy Dorsey Band at a local venue.

The last week of March will also be busy as we are having our annual symposium at my day job. This is a pretty intense two days of nonstop work, and I'm usually thoroughly exhausted by the end of it.

I'm actually glad the next two weeks will keep me busy. It's another way for my mind to quietly heal and process the recent events in my life.

And the novel? Oh yes, that will keep me busy, too! In fact, I plan to tackle it hard this weekend and write as much as I can.

I'm still having tough days, but that's to be expected. On the whole I'd say I'm doing pretty darn good for what I've been through. I'm proud of myself for that.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Oh, Sweet Words!

Good day, bad days, rotten days, and everything in between. I've experienced it all in the past week.

Which is why tonight, I needed an escape.

I opened my novel, excited for the first time in weeks, thrilled to be diving into this other world.

So that I could forget the reality of my own.

It worked. I loved reconnecting with my words, even felt a burst of joy at how much I loved this story. Yes, in many ways writing this novel has been like being in labor for two years - agonizing and painful - but in so many others, this story has pulled me in, made me look beneath the surface of humanity, forced me to examine how we can fool ourselves into believing what we want to believe, self-medicate against the pain, lose our way and struggle to find the right path.

Ironic, perhaps fitting, that so much of what I've been through in the past few months is echoed in my characters' lives. I didn't plan it that way. Yet somehow, connections I never made before are fusing now, deepening and enriching the story in ways I never imagined.

A blessing amidst the furious storm that has raged in my little corner of the world for the better part of a month.

Throughout my life, my words, my writing, have saved me in so many ways.

A blessing indeed.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

The Betrayed

My last novel's title was The Betrayed. Betrayal was the theme and I explored it in various ways. It was challenging to write, but I really enjoyed it.

But when you're betrayed in real life, it makes fiction pale by comparison.

I'm not going to get into specifics, but I found out my husband was having an affair and thus, that was the reason he wanted to get divorced.

Everything I thought I knew about him has been turned upside down. The pain is such that it feels like a knife has been plunged into my heart and it keeps twisting, deeper and deeper.

I will be okay. This I know. But my hopes for an amicable divorce, for a continued friendship with my ex, have been cruelly dashed. I have not only lost my husband, but my best friend.

I believe we go through challenges like this for a reason. I'm not sure what the reason is for this latest development, but I know, in the future, I will understand.

My friends and family, even my primary physician, have rallied to my side. I am supported. I am loved. And this makes all the difference.

I've worked through this pain by writing. I've filled my journal with pages and pages of scrawled thoughts and feelings. It has helped. And my writing will continue to help.

I may not feel it all the time, but I am growing stronger in so many ways: in my faith, in my relationship with my daughter, in my relationships with my family and friends.

I will not let this break me.

New Digs

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