He Came to Dance

Jun 22, 2020 | Linda, Love, Wisdom

I try to stand tall in truth and kindness.  I will never forget a moment when my Dad, in the presence of human cruelty, showed me how that is done.

“Dad, do you want to sit down?” I said.  He grimaced.  The muscles around his eyes, his mouth and cheeks twitched like marionettes to an inner puppeteer’s frenzied pulls.  This was Parkinson’s Disease. It was torture to watch.

The dance floor near midnight was a blur of New Year’s Eve revelers in jeans and T-shirts, slivers of sequenced gowns, and the dress of penguins, tuxedos. A disco ball strobed our costumes with twirling arcs of light that flashed blue, then red, then green.

The air stank of bodies sweating processed alcohol, ethanol, mixed with the spicy scent of pizza wafting from the kitchen. The snack was supposed to sober people up so they could return home safely.  A frothy, foamy puddle of spilled beer pooled on the floor near the stage where the DJ spun his records.

Mom was swathed in a gauzy mauve dress.  She had ditched her shoes in favor of nylon-stockinged feet.  Dad wore pressed pants and an ironed long-sleeved shirt that had wilted some in the human generated heat. My sisters and I wore casual pants and dressy blouses.  My brothers wore jeans. We were in the middle of one last dance as a family when an idiot stranger pierced our protective circle.

The idiot, probably in his young forties, was three sheets to the wind. He was completely in his cups.  He made an ass of himself.

The idiot swayed and stumbled in his inebriation and got right in front of Dad.  The idiot mimicked Dad’s twitching, trembling movements. The idiot mirrored Dad’s spastic features. The idiot mocked Dad’s Parkinson’s Disease.

There was a time when my proud, strong father would have decked the idiot. Now, he was too physically weakened. That’s Parkinson’s Disease.  He had battled it for 10 years and would battle it six more before it bested him.

Dad stood still.  A range of feelings registered between his facial spasms – anger, disbelief, pain, humiliation.  My heart was breaking.

“No, Lin, I do not want to sit down,” Dad said. “I came to dance.” 

Dad stared at the idiot and it seemed as if his spine straightened.  His voice emerged quiet, firm, strong and brooked no argument. “You are drunk,” he said to him.  “You are embarrassing yourself.  GO. SIT. DOWN.”

The writhing blur of bodies around our circle had slowed and inhaled during the idiot’s pantomime. Empathy and disgust hung in the air. The blur exhaled with Dad’s response. Someone escorted the idiot off the floor.

“I’m so sorry, Dad,” I said.  “Don’t be,” he replied. “I’ve been that drunk, too. It is not a good place. He did not know what he was doing.”  He resumed moving to the music.

Parkinson’s Disease made a mess of my father’s body. He died, ravaged. The funeral director who washed, embalmed, and respectfully prepared him for viewing said, “It was clear your father suffered a lot.”

Parkinson’s Disease was a thief. It robbed my Dad of his mobility, his dreams for his retirement, and his preference to be seen as strong and invulnerable. The disease made my Dad’s life hard, but he dug deep, and found thinking that helped him become stronger in the broken places.

Parkinson’s Disease pruned everything away from my Dad, except what mattered most, his heart, and soul. He stood tall in truth and kindness. He finished, dancing.

Copyright 2020, Linda Sandel Pettit, Ed.D.

Photo by Anthony Garand on Unsplash


Dr. Linda Sandel Pettit, a priestess-at-heart and retired counseling psychologist, can be found at www.thedrspettit.com. Linda loves putting her intuitive nature, spiritual understanding and clinical experience in service to others. She is available for on-line consultations. For information about fees and packages, visit BOOK NOW. Email her at linda@thedrspettit.com.