By Penny Showalter
On October 12, 2009, Don, my cherished husband, died. I am still in love with Don and miss him every day, but things have changed. I am also deeply in love with Allan, who became my husband three years ago. Now we both miss Don.
Don only had two levels of interest in a given activity; he was either indifferent or passionate. His pursuit of those passions supplies my most vivid and abiding memories of him. Even as I write this, for example, I can picture him streaking down a mountain on skis. I can just as easily recall the intensity and skill he invested in building a superb, perfectly crafted wooden headboard.
Most of Don’s interests were embedded long before we met. Dancing was different, and that made it special to me.
I’ve loved dancing since I was a little girl shuffling my feet, following my Daddy’s lead. My most memorable learning experience in high school was the discovery that dance – which was more fun and involved more attractive uniforms than field hockey – could fulfill my physical education requirement.
Don wasn’t a dancer when we met. Over time, an implicit matrimonial arrangement of the sort couples routinely create to accommodate each other evolved: at gatherings, Don didn’t complain about me accepting dance invitations from other men, and, in turn, I didn’t complain about him sitting out most of the numbers. It wasn’t the kind of resolution that results in the relationship equivalent of the Age of Aquarius, but it served its purpose.
Then, ten years into our marriage, on our way home from a Christmas party where, true to form, I had spent most of the night on the dance floor while Don stayed in his seat at the table, he offhandedly suggested, “We should take dance lessons.” Assuming this was the product of too many holiday martinis, I didn’t pursue it. When, however, he made the same proposal while a tad hung over but clearly sober the next morning, I immediately contacted the good folks at Arthur Murray before he had the chance to revert to “I don’t dance” mode.
The dance lessons were – and I earn no commission from Arthur Murray Studios for this endorsement – a peak experience for us. Not only did we learn to waltz, foxtrot, rumba … but we made friends and, most importantly, found a new way to delight each other.
The lessons also led to me participating, with our instructor as my partner, in pro-am dance competitions. Don not only encouraged me but took an active role, attending the events, enduring hours of my rehearsals, setting up my music, and videotaping my performances.
Dancing remained a vital part of our life together long after the lessons and studio activities ended. A favorite date was a Saturday night spent waltzing to live music at the Balboa Bay Club.
I never asked Don why he suddenly decided on that trip home from the party that we should take dancing lessons. I suppose it could be that it really was those Christmas cocktails that loosened his inhibitions or maybe ten years of watching me dance while he was stuck at a table was enough to convince him. Heck, I suppose it could just be that cosmic serendipity thing Allan likes to invoke.
But actually I do know. I am absolutely certain that Don became interested in dancing simply because he knew I was interested in dancing.
It was a marvelous act of love.
Allan put together a video using tapes Don took of me dancing along with still photos of me with Don and with Allan. The first time I watched it, I was moved to tears by my feelings for the two men that live in my heart and my realization of how very lucky I am. Now that I’ve seen this dozens of times – I feel exactly the same.
You’ll Carry Me Down On Your Dancing
And that’s how I remember Don – full of passion, support and love for his work, for his play and for me.