I spent my life in a strange, wonderful, questioning, beautiful dance with my dad. He was a man that made it look easy, the way he walked, stood tall, and often took command of a room. He moved effortlessly through conversations especially in large gathering. That’s what I saw when I was young. When I looked up to Dad’s magnificence, his masculine deep voice that rang loudly as he spoke and laughed.
The older I got I saw something different however; I saw undertones, covering up truths that not everyone wanted to speak of. I watched Dad handle this, do a dance around his truths. He would sometimes fabricate, stretch what was a reality. His partner, his lover, was a roommate — just one example where Dad refused to admit what was pure truth. Later in life he took the firm stance that it was no ones business. He was right on many accounts, still it became his dance, one he perfected over the years.
After carefully watching, counting Dads steps and missteps I too began to dance. I created my own sort of soft shoe, sliding in and out of conversations when I noticed it might be getting too personal or when I thought friends were getting too close to seeing my family truths. I would begin my own kind of tap dance, sometimes loudly to distract friends, hoping I’d send them off my track. The more I danced, the more I perfected — the more I moved away from my true self. It felt, seemed like a good strategy all those years, to dance my way out of the tough spots. But as I look back I can see the danger in doing so. The danger for both my dad and me is that you have to work so hard to keep up that dance. It can exhaust you, and you can get lost in the dance. You convince yourself that the cover up dance is the right dance.
I’m learning to dance again after all these years – hopefully the right way. I’m learning to open up, to speak up, and speak truthfully, uncensored. I’m learning to stretch all my limbs, though they often feel tight, restrained from all the careful consideration I’ve made. From all the calculated ways I’ve chosen not to share. Still, I’m unfolding muscle-by-muscle, idea-by-idea, and truth-by-truth.
I wish Dad could have experienced such flexibility. That said, I do remember his ability to be fast on his feet, it was something to watch. To see him on stage in a Greek tavern at a wedding was so impressive. He took purposeful steps, deliberately planting his feet firmly in a stomp to the music. That’s the man I wanted people to see. A man standing tall, grounded, dancing freely as often as he wanted.
Some say life is a dance – I say yes though it comes in many forms. My hope is that we all dance…the healthy, exhilarating way!