Dancin’ shoes for G-Pa

Shawn's grandparents

Today I took my 92 year-old G-pa to the mall to find some dancin’ shoes. We started off with lunch at the Olive Garden. G-pa put down; salad, 2 breadsticks, 1 glass of merlot, spinach artichoke dip, lasagna, and he still had room for dessert so we had tiramisu. G-pa was impressed with the cleanliness and the solid construction of the building as well.

Back when G-ma was still alive, we used to eat at the Royal Fork which was torn down to make way for the Olive Garden. It was time for the Fork to go, it had been there too long and was gettin’ a bit skanky. I loved that place when I was a kid because the end of the buffet always had plenty of chocolate cake and I was allowed to go back to the soft serve ice cream dispenser for more choco/vanilla twist as many times as i wanted. Good memories of summers with G-ma and G-pa.

Anyhooo, back to the present, which is now already the past, but was once the future…hmmm So, apparently, the proper shoes for dancing need to be lightweight, and have a slick sole so you can glide your feet along. G-pa likes to remind me that what the young people call dancing today, “standing there looking at each other, wiggling around and making funny faces,” is nothing close to how he and G-ma used to dance. They met at a dance at the Hollywood Paladium back in the early forties, just before WWII. The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra was playing and Frank Sinatra was singing with his Pied Pipers (his backup singers before he got big).

G-pa worked for the McDonnel Douglas aircraft company and G-ma worked for a bank. They used to run around LA all night long dancing and playing “goofy golf” until morning when they would go back and have ice cream with chocolate syrup and black walnuts on it until it was time for church. They were married for nearly sixty years and spent lots of time dancing from what I have gathered. According to G-pa, dances were held weekly in most of the little towns and cities around here back before we all got hooked on TVs and computers, oh and the roads to Rapid were all gravel too.

What was i talking about? Oh yeah, dancin’ shoes. So, none at JCPennys, (G-pa says there used to be one in every town), none at Scheel’s, none at Sears (G-pa used to take the catalog to the outhouse to look at the ladies undergarments), finally, we found some suitable dancin’ shoes at Famous Footwear. $95 dollar Rockports on sale for $70. G-pa tried the shoes on and did a little shufflin’ and dancin’ for the sales ladies…he rocks…I hope I am doing as well at 92.

He told me that last night, he turned on the sattelite radio on his TV and danced around by himself in his socks, this is incredibly sad and encouraging at the same time. G-pa has just recently been able to get excited about dancing again since G-ma died. It has to suck to be married to, devoted to, and totally in love with someone for 60 years and then end up alone again for the last years of your life. I hope that my presence here in SoDak makes it easier for G-pa, but I can’t be there all day every day and I know he is quite lonely.

The priest at his church also plays the accordian in a polka band that plays at casinos up in D-wood. We have taken G-pa up there a few times now, and the last two times he has found ladies there to dance with. He felt guilty the first time he danced with another lady, but he has come to the realization that G-ma would be cool with it, so he has decided to “get back in shape so (he) can keep up when the polka band plays again in April”.

So where is all of this rambling going? I’m not sure, I guess I just want to start getting this stuff down before I start to forget it. G-ma has been gone for three years but I can still hear her singing in the kitchen and I can hear her voice calling my name in my head. I am starting to lose the memory of what it felt like to hug her, but every time I smell sunflowers, I remember her perfume. I am grateful for the summers I spent with them in Newell, and I am glad I decided to move back here six years ago to spend time with them.

I hope everybody has the opportunity to get to know their Grandparents. Spend as much time with them as you can, and if you can’t be there, at least call them once a week. It doesn’t take much to brighten their day, it’s the least you can do. You wouldn’t be here reading my rambling if it weren’t for them. If your Grandparents are already gone, write down everything you can remember, even the little stuff, do it for yourself and do it for future generations.

The world has changed A LOT during my G-pa’s life. He has a perspective on the world that not many people alive today can have. Most of what we worry about is just silly shit in the end. Don’t take things so seriously and don’t be afraid to be a 92 year-old man dancing by yourself in your socks to polka music at 10 o’clock pm while you wait for your nightly call from your grandson.


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