The Dance

I went to the school board’s dance festival this morning – nine elementary schools doing their thing.  The music was high energy and I tapped out the beat in the bleachers.  It brought me back to the disco on a Cuba vacation.  What a joy to move, to throw the arms into the air with gay abandon.

The kids helped me remember how dearly I love to dance.  I remember my wife Jody staring at me as I gyrated to the tunes.  Apparently I didn’t look too graceful but I was sure having fun.

I also remember Halloween dances at a long ago elementary school.  All costumed up, I moved amid the 12-year-olds – not as fast as them but usually just as expressive.  Oh, the joy of mindless response to great melodies and rhythms!

For the last year, I’ve been careful.  What a yucky word.  I was worried about the pain in my knee and my hip.  “Don’t break something, Bruce.  Take it slow and easy.”  Especially after today, I’m tired of measured and moderate.  My trainer and I have set me on a course to health in its many forms, including having stronger muscles around my knees.  Does this mean that my future holds dancing, maybe even running?  “Why not?” I say.

The gym was crowded with young dancers and their loved ones.  Troupes of kids dressed all in black, or all in white or tie-dyed t-shirts rocked the house.  Most wore big smiles.  Some were athletic.  Some seemed focused on remembering the steps.  The occasional kid was overweight but moving smartly nonetheless.  Some children were tiny but still pumping their arms madly beside classmates a foot or more taller.  There was even a line dancing group topped with cowboy hats, taking us through our paces in Cadillac Ranch.  No one was left out.

Boys were in short supply but they didn’t care.  It’s possible that “friends” back at school razzed them for choosing hip hop over football but the faces still shone as Magic in the Air had kids in the audience shaking their bods along with the performers.

Well, young ones, you inspired me today.  I also have two feet and fully functioning legs.  It’s time to launch assorted body parts into the air again.  There’s a place for calm and an equal spot for raucous.

Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world
for I would ride with you upon the wind
and dance upon the mountains like a flame!

(William Butler Yeats)

Floor Hockey

For the past decade or two, I haven’t been what you’d call a careful person.  I’m pretty spontaneous, and no doubt some of the silly things that come out of my mouth have some folks questioning my sanity.

And I want to do things.  Things that involve spurts of energy, throwing my arms into the air, singing when I feel like it.  I’ve loved dancing for many years.  Jody used to enjoy staring at folks who were watching me dance.  She loved seeing their fascination with my erratic use of four limbs – not exactly the fox trot, not exactly jiving, not exactly … anything.

I hurt my knee on Canada Day last year, slipping on some slopey grass.  It still hasn’t healed fully.  I’ve wanted to get an MRI to see what’s going on, but my doctor at the Fowler-Kennedy Clinic offered another perspective.  “You have arthritis in both knees.  They’re degenerating some.  The grass was just the moment that caused you to pay attention to something that previously you couldn’t see.”  Oh.  So I’m doing these eight exercises, not to end a pain that came on suddenly but to strengthen knees enough so that I can continue doing the “Activities of Daily Living”.

And what exactly are these ADL’s?  I guess that’s up to me to decide.  Walking, climbing stairs, bending over to pick up the newspaper – these are good things.  But I want more.  I want to play floor hockey with the kids at school!  Doctor J warned me about the dangers of sudden sideways movements of that joint of mine, but saw floor hockey in my future.  That was three weeks ago.  Today I decided the future is now.

A friend and colleague presented me with a blue t-shirt this morning.  Written across the logo of the Toronto Maple Leafs was the name of the school.  On the the back was “Brucio”.  That’s me!  At noon, the teachers’ team was to bang sticks with an ace kids’ squad from Grades 5 and 6.  The winner would go to the finals on Thursday.

So, Bruce … yes or no?  I said yes, after consulting with my right knee.  It smiled up at me.  The kids are fast and aggressive.  I’m slow and aggressive.  I got out there and did battle, noticing that when the puck did end up on my stick, I had precious little time to do anything valuable with it.  Oh well.  I played some so-so defense and got a few good passes off to my teammates.  The knee twinged here and hurt there but I consistently remained vertical.  I even got a zippy shot on net.  The Grade 6 girl playing goal had to make the best stop in the history of the western world to deny me.  Or … the puck headed right for her stomach.

I picked an opponent to check and stuck with him like glue, occasionally.  More often, he was long gone down the gym floor while I breathed behind.  Happily though, I wasn’t the token adult.  I played hard.  I wasn’t out of place.  I contributed to our stellar 1-1 tie with the kids.  And we do it all over again on Thursday.

Am I crazy?  Am I risking my future ability to walk by engaging in these hockey shenanigans?  Is this a late life crisis?  Naw.  None of the above.  I’ll keep doing my physio.  I’ll do my yoga.  I’ll be on the elliptical.  And I will have fun with those kids.  They deserve me and I deserve them.  And watch out Miss Goalie.  I see a wrist shot to the top corner in your future.

 

Here and There

How strange that I haven’t felt like writing for a week.  Or maybe not strange at all.  Either way, here I am.

Lots of stuff has happened and I’ve vaguely said, “I should write about this tonight.”  And then tonight fades away in the rear view mirror.  After that, the topic seems stale.  I like writing fresh.

So what to do?  I think I’ll give you some snippets from the past seven days and then see what beckons me tomorrow.  Can I create “fresh” by doing this?  We’ll see.

***

I went to a brunch at the Belmont Diner today.  Near me at the lunch counter was a mom and her young daughter – maybe 5.  I enjoyed watching her colour and throw her hands at mom, all with a vibrant smile.  After we had eaten, “Brittany” sidles over to the chair beside me and eventually says, “You came into my classroom.”  And I guess I did, on a day a few weeks ago when I read Stanley At School to a whole bunch of classes.

My new friend bubbled away about the two plastic Easter eggs she had in front of her.  She shook the small one near my ear.  No sound.  “No surprises.”  Then the big one.  Something was rattling inside.  “Surprises!”  Opening it up, Brittany pointed out the chocolate yummies and the “hay” – little turquoise strings of plastic.  My job was to get the strings back inside so she could close the eggish lid.  I did okay, and together we got the job done, with just a few strands sticking out.  “Look!  The egg has a beard.”  So very cool.

Then Brittany launched into her counting skills.  After a bit, we were doing it in unison (70, 71, 72 …) with each of us watching the other person’s mouth form the words.  How wonderful that a short young person can create such joy in a taller, older one.

***

Thursday evening was momentous.  For the first time in at least ten years, I didn’t go to bed with a sleeping pill in my mouth.  With the help of my pharmacist, I’ve been weaning myself off the nasty little things.  Thursday was the beginning of a new two-week pattern – “Nothing, half, nothing, half …”  And I was scared.  What if I got no sleep at all?  How would I survive that?  Well of course I would, but I didn’t have to.  I awoke amazed after seven hours of shuteye.  How could that be?  Chemicals going into my body for maybe 4000 nights and then sleeping well without them.  Thank you, o powers of freedom.

Last night was the second “nothing” experience.  Surely it would be a piece of cake.  Surely the first night would be the worst.  But not so.  I struggled to get four hours.  After Thursday, I told myself to forget the schedule, that I was already free, with never a Trazodone to enter my body again.  But a wiser voice let me know that I needed to stick with the program, to be nice to my mysterious physical existence.  I’m glad I listened.

***

After school on Wednesday, I drove to New Sarum to see the Grade 6 girls play basketball.  I volunteer in their class.  I took a seat on the stage of the gym and waited for my friends to arrive.  And here they came.  Some of them saw me, smiled and came right over to sit in front of and beside me.  And there we chatted as two other teams took the floor for the first game.  It was special for me to sense that I was important to many of those young people.  Makes me wish I had kids.  I would have been a good dad.

The next day, at recess, some of the girls and boys wanted me to see the fort they’d built at the far corner of the schoolyard.  I was ushered into an airy wooden structure and offered a seat on their padded bench.  All seemed pleased that my weight didn’t collapse the thing.  I got to sit there and smile about the private space they’d created for themselves.  It was a privilege to be a guest.

***

On Good Friday, I went for a bike ride.  Sunny and warm.  Eight kilometres in, as I approached Harrietsville, I got a flat tire.  Boo.  I had to be back at 1:00 pm to go with my good neighbours Sharon and John to a gospel music concert in Kitchener.  As I stared at ta-pocketa’s plight, I realized that I’d forgotten how to change a tire, especially the more difficult back one.  “But Bruce, here you are preparing to cross Canada on your bike next year and you can’t even change a tire?”  Yep.  That’s true.  So humbling.

I started walking my bike and saw from the cycling computer that I was going 5 kph.  A quick calculation revealed that at this pace I’d return to my doorstep at 1:05 or so.  Good enough.  So on I went.

My trip home was sprinkled with sadness.  Probably 80 vehicles passed me.  Many no doubt thought it strange that here was a man walking his bicycle.  Did they wonder if I had a flat, or whether I was injured?  The net result was that no one stopped to see if I was okay, and maybe to offer me a lift home.  At least 15 pickup trucks came by.  Plus several vans, although I don’t know if they had room for ta-pocketa and me.  I felt sad that this particular slice of society didn’t respond to someone in need.  Oh, I wasn’t hurt, and with enough walking I would make it home just fine, but still …

***

Happily, I arrived home in time for my neighbours and me to join other folks on a bus leading to the Collingsworth family – mom, dad and four young adults (a son and three daughters).  Could they sing!  And the thousand of us in the audience were moving and grooving (some on the outside, some within).

The star of the show was mom Kim.  She sat at the black grand piano and blasted us with her virtuoso playing.  If only you could have heard “How Great Thou Art”.  During the fast parts, she was bouncing on the piano bench, head back in ecstasy as she belted out the words while her fingers flew.  And the best was watching her daughters nearby as Kim played.  Here was a mom expressing herself with every fibre of her being, and the girls were loving her for it.  They smiled, they nodded, they stared at their mother.  And all was well.

***

1100 words?  Cool.  Just a few more now:

The banquet is laid out every single day
How delightful to partake

Expression

I wanted to put energy out into the world today.  I wanted to do things, with no concern about how people would react.  So I did.

1. I watched an erotic video.  It was so cool.  Clearly the couple loved each other very much.

2. I walked to the Belmont Diner.  I could have driven.  Three minutes compared to twenty.  I love to walk, seeing the world unfold before me.

3.  At the Diner, I met a woman and told her my name was George.  Jean was sitting beside her, and laughed.  She knew my name was really Oscar.

4.  I had pancake and sausages.  Pretty fatty, Bruce.  Too bad, Bruce.

5.  I waxed poetic with a fellow at the lunch counter about Tarandowah, the golf course I love.  I talked about the beauty of the course, rather than scores and swings.  He was willing to share his favourite hole (13) as I shared mine (14).

6.  Back at home, I tried to figure out a grommet kit I’d bought, so I could line up my funky new shower curtain with the separately purchased liner.  Couldn’t make head or tail of the instructions.  Knocked on two neighbours’ doors for grommet relief.  Borot sat on my porch and showed me what to do.  Now I’m perfectly aligned with the universe.

7.  It was cold.  I drove to Tarandowah.  I walked some fairways.  I moseyed over to the farmer’s field beside the fifth fairway and searched for golf balls.  I found ten.  Yay!

8.  I walked the fescue mounds by the 14th fairway.  I found the highest spot on the course and drank in the 360° view.  Then I sauntered over to a mound behind the 6th tee.  From there I gazed out on eleven holes in the gathering gloom.

8.  Back to the clubhouse at twilight.  Nobody home.  I sat on the patio in the dark and ate the second half of my Subway sub from yesterday.  Cold cuts.  I wanted to donate my balls to the club but I couldn’t find a bucket.  Laid all seventeen on the patio by the front door.  The pro will find them tomorrow morning.

9.  Drove to Costco in  London.  My new sunglasses were ready.  Was thrilled to put them on my nose but they weren’t much good in the dark.

10.  I remembered my favourite Costco meal – $1.50 for a hot dog and drink.  Too fatty.  Ate it anyway.

11.  Drove downtown to the Cuckoo’s Nest Folk Club.  Sat entranced for two hours in the presence of a harpist from Ireland and a guitarist from England.  How they traded melodies back and forth!

12.  At the break between sets, I contemplated having a pint of Delirium Tremens beer (the best I’ve ever tasted).  Decided no … too fatty.  Had the DTs anyway.

***

Now I’m home, tap-tapping on the keys.  You may be liking what I’m writing or maybe not.  It doesn’t matter.  I’m doing stuff.  Stuff I want to do.  Throwing myself into my local universe.  Makes me happy.

I’m Glad I Did It

My life has been a flurry of activity the last few days.  Not exactly in tune with the meditative fellow that I see myself as.  But it’s good.

First there was SunFest.  I wanted to dance.  There were times after my tendon transfer surgery in 2003 that I thought I’d never dance again.  Last Sunday, though, I threw my body around for three hours, spaced out over the afternoon and evening.  Fast dancing, usually surrounded by more than a hundred other revellers.  I occasionally thought of my right foot.  “Bruce, you’re putting too much pressure on it with all your gyrating!  There’s a screw in that foot, you know.  If you don’t stop, you won’t be able to walk in five years.”  Or … “Bruce, you’re going golfing tomorrow.  You’d better forget dancing at the 10:00 pm show, and rest up.  Otherwise you won’t survive eighteen holes of walking.”  Such a small, squeaky voice.

I danced at the last show, once more to the group “Five Alarm Funk”.  Go ankle, go!  I gave ‘er, joyously, and then limped to Hugo, my Honda CRV.  The next day was hot and humid on the links and the whole body suffered.  As for my golf swing, it was a thing of … (something).  But I love Tarandowah – the rolling fairways, the deep bunkers, the tall fescue grass in the rough.  Despite my pain, I knew I was home.

Yesterday I limped, but I still went out to lunch with a friend, and to dinner with another.  Weeks ago, I had e-mailed all sorts of folks, asking them out for a meal, since I wouldn’t see them again until January.  I’m now in the home stretch of social engagements, with my estimated time of liftoff for the west being next Tuesday.  I’ve loved the conversations.  I’m certainly not tired of people, but I’m tired.

All good things, these dancings and golfings and yappings.  They make me happy.  Even my feet are singing a wee little bit.