The Last Dance

October 5, 2011

The Last Dance

It’s not for me to say you love me;
It’s not for me to say you’ll always care.
Oh, but here for the moment, I can hold you fast
And press your lips to mine
And dream that love will last.

Johnny Mathis

Today I shopped at Fry’s, a crowded grocery store by my house. I grabbed a cart outside the entrance and proceeded toward the produce section.  While mulling over the fruits, a song came on overhead which immediately had my attention. It was Johnny Mathis singing, “It’s not for me to say.” I began to slow dance with my husband, Michael. We glided down the aisles, all eyes upon us as we passed by shoppers who smiled and secretly wished they were dancing.  My husband held me close, my head rested comfortably on his shoulder, our eyes closed, our bodies melted together as we dipped occasionally and swayed to the music. We were caught up in the moment, displaying an unexpected show of affection; the kind of energy and electricity exhibited between two people in love. We were swept away as we twirled and pirouetted to the tune. We listened to lyrics that spoke to our hearts; words that said what we could not say to one another—words that resonated with us.   

A few years ago, while at a Willie Nelson concert, we heard “Maybe I didn’t Love You.” Halfway through the song Michael took my hand and kissed me on my lips. We stood up and slow danced down the aisle before returning to our seats.  When we sat down, I looked into his eyes and noticed the tears. He reached in his jacket pocket, took out his handkerchief and said, “I’m sorry about so many things and this song says it all.” I just smiled and told him, “I know how much you love me. I’ve always known that.”

Maybe I didn’t hold you
All those lonely, lonely times
And I guess I never told you
I’m so happy that you’re mine

Little things I should have said and done
I just never took the time
You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind

Willie Nelson


 I remember one evening, a few weeks after my husband’s initial cancer diagnosis. We were listening to a Tony Bennett song, “It had to be you,” during dinner. I set my fork down on my plate, pushed my chair out, and asked my husband to slow dance with me. He smiled, a bit in shock, then took my lead and promptly put his arms around me. “We should do this more often,” he said with a grin. I leaned into his thick body, my head on his upper chest, my arms intertwined around his neck, wanting the dance to never end.   

It had to be you, it had to be you
I wandered around, and finally found the somebody who
Could make me be true, could make me be blue
And even be glad, just to be sad thinking of you.

Tony Bennett

I’ll never forget that night and how he used to love when I would suddenly tap him on the shoulder and request a dance. We’d press our bodies together, occasionally look into one another’s eyes, and move gracefully around the living room parquet floor like we were performers on a Broadway stage.

During the last month of his illness, when he was restricted to a wheelchair and his legs were so swollen he could barely stand without the assistance of two people—we danced. He had lost most of his body muscle mass, his facial bones protruded, his eyes looked sunken and glassy, and his lips felt dry and crusty. His skin had dulled and he had a rash on both cheeks. A classic Frank Sinatra song played on the radio. I went over to his wheelchair, tapped him on the shoulder, and asked him if I could have this dance. We proceeded to move our upper bodies back and forth to the beat of the music.

Fly me to the moon
Let me play among the stars
Let me see what spring is like
On a-Jupiter and Mars
In other words, hold my hand
In other words, baby, kiss me.

Frank Sinatra

Even though we weren’t gliding around a dance floor, we were moving in tune with one another, our cheeks touching as we stole an occasional kiss. I closed my eyes to hold back the tears. I didn’t want him to know what I was thinking—that this might be our last dance. I didn’t want him to see me cry.  

That was the last time we swayed to his favorite music. Two weeks later he died. 

But perhaps this dance, today at Fry’s Supermarket, around the fruits and vegetable aisle, past the cereals, fruit bars, crackers, and dairy foods, circling the deli case and the cheese and bread display, past the juices, cookies, and paper goods, around the onlookers and the employees, past the checkers and managers, was meant to be our last dance together.    

About TRatner

Terry Ratner is a freelance writer, registered nurse, and writing instructor in Phoenix, Arizona. In June of 2004, she graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction from Antioch University, Los Angeles. Writing has always served a purpose in her life, but it wasn't until her son died in a motorcycle accident in March, 1999, that she began to publish her works. What's unique about Terry is the way she balances the life of a nurse with the life of a writer. "Nursing allows me to give back to the community and then write about those experiences." Ratner teaches creative writing in a variety of settings from community colleges to a school for homeless children (Thomas J. Pappas) to wellness communities throughout the Valley of the Sun. In 2004, Terry launched an Arts and Healing program for children undergoing dialysis at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center. She has published numerous personal essays, cover stories, interviews, and book reviews for a variety of national and regional publications. Her manuscript, a work in progress, features a series of twelve essays, ten of which are introduced with black and white photos, dealing with issues of family and identity.
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5 Responses to The Last Dance

  1. kaylene says:

    that was just beautiful.

  2. tracy poulos says:

    beautiful memories …..

  3. Connie Forbister says:

    I sing to Charlie all the time and he loves it. I used to sing him to sleep and that was when he was well. Our favorite is “That’ll be me, howlin’ in the wind, everytime I come across your tracks again”. If you hear somebody singing you this song like they could sing it to you all night long, that’ll be me, that’ll be me.

  4. Carol says:

    I had tears in my eyes as I read this, so touching. Such a love you two had. I wish we could have known the 2 of you as a couple. I think we would have had fun together. Julian and I went to a Willie Nelson concert also a number of years ago. We both really like Willie and Frank Sinatra also. I think that dance in Fry’s was wonderfully healing. Your words make it so real. It might have been your last dance, or maybe there will be a few more when the mood hits.

    My granddaughter, Jules, and I dance together often and I somehow I feel close to Julian at those times. Sounds weird, but it is fun and freeing and I feel like I will have a life again at those moments. We hold hands and dance, she looks down at my feet like she wants to either step on them like kids do or just move her feet like mine. She lets go of my hands, dances by herself and turns around to the music till she’s dizzy and falls down. Sometimes I pick her up and we swing around to the music till she giggles and laughs.
    Thanks for your blog!

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