You’ve seen or heard of the show, haven’t you? Dancing with the Stars is a series where movie stars, professional sports players or those otherwise well known, are paired with professional dancers with whom they train for a televised competition. The audience, both live and at home, watch as the couples flow effortlessly fast or slow across the floor, each movement synchronized. They wear impressive matching costumes and their bodies move as one, perfectly in sync with each other. The behind the scenes clips show that it didn’t start out that way though. They struggled and were forced to communicate, finding words when actions weren’t enough. I would guess each time they danced together it became more comfortable. Like anything difficult, it took practice, patience and determination to achieve the final performance. Then they are judged.
I suppose it’s hard to imagine, when you see me in my wheelchair, that it wasn’t always this way. It may be difficult to picture if you know my husband’s body has been invaded by cancer and the treatments to fight it. You wouldn’t guess that the first thing we did together was dance.
There was a group of us who went out together all those years ago. It had been a road trip between colleges. One group came to surprise my roommate, and celebrate her birthday with our group of friends. That night, new friendships were formed when we went out dancing. Everyone danced with everyone on that small crazy flashing disco floor. By the end of the night, he and I had danced together the most.
We danced again in that group more times when there were more road trips one direction or the other. He and I danced at ROTC military balls and at parties. We were just a couple of kids, but each time we danced together was more comfortable and more fun. We learned to anticipate each others’ movements. We knew how to fit in each others arms and it felt joyful and romantic. We would smile at each other and felt love when we danced together.
As the years went on, we danced at military balls, weddings and parties. During the time that he taught at a university, we took ballroom dancing classes there; and we learned to tango, waltz and fox trot. And, sometimes, at the surprise of our children, we broke into freestyle dance at home.
Then MS came, not all at once; but little by little, taking pieces of my legs at a time. My heart still danced and I could move my arms about, but my legs wouldn’t dance on the floor so we couldn’t dance together anymore. We did many other things together, but MS took dancing and its fun from us. When we have gone to weddings or parties, I’ve encouraged him to dance without me. Most of the time he does, and most of the time I am more than content to watch him move; sometimes I have to swallow the loss I feel.
Years have gone by while we have watched MS cause my body to do less and less. There came a time when less meant I could not do something for myself…and he helped me. And as I have been able to do even less, he has helped me more. There’s a lot of choreography and effort that goes into daily routines now. He guides my legs and arms to help me accomplish tasks. He helps steer and maneuver me to get comfortable. Right leg here, left arm there – guiding my body as we coordinate together, each movement synchronized. We usually anticipate each other’s movements. Sometimes we are forced to communicate, finding words when actions aren’t enough. It takes practice, patience and determination as we move together. One day I realized that we are…..in a way…..dancing again.
Sometimes the dances are new and awkward and they take awhile to learn and get comfortable with. It’s not fun and it’s not romantic in the way it used to be, and it’s certainly not flashy with disco lights. At times its smooth like a waltz, it can be choppy like the Charleston, other times we tangle like a tango, and sometimes it feels like a sweet ballet when he puts on a necklace or learns to put my hair back. This kind of dancing feels more like sorrow than joy, painfully humbling and beautifully sacrificial. I wish we didn’t have to live like this; but I smile inside when I see how he cares for me. When we move together, it tells a love story through a new form of dance.
We’re a team and MS is our competition. No audience, no judges, no fancy costumes; but he’s my Star and we’re dancing in a new way.