YES- this is still an EMS blog. Today's entry, however, is a personal lesson about life. When you take that call and save that person, you're creating the potential for moments like this. Life matters.
The lights faded in the applause crescendo. I waited with my daughter in the darkness for our cue to leave the stage, fighting the urge to carry her off on my shoulders. I figured that would take too long for the "real" dancers who were already positioned for the next performance. So I held her hand and ushered her off quickly to stage right as we'd rehearsed. Hand shakes and hive-fives followed behind the curtains but my heart ached. It ached again as each of the black tee-shirt clad fathers fist bumped me after the recital and said "We did it! See you next year!" Today was a sublime combination of felicity and melancholy.
It was nothing Earth-shattering to the casual observer. Amidst the extremely talented performances of the dancers at Buffalo Dance Center's yearly recital it was simply the annual Daddy-Daughter Dance- ie a bunch of fathers trying their best to just keep some semblance of a beat. This year Instructor Samantha Hojczyk choreographed the piece for her real dancers and their somewhat aged Dads. We got together on Sundays for seven weeks, practiced, poked fun at ourselves, and then arrived today on stage as comic relief halfway through the show. The crowd response was, as always, politely fantastic. We're no dancers, but we worked hard with the ultimate goal of supporting our most precious possessions- the little girls who have stolen our hearts. I can't speak for all the Dads, but for me every year has been an adventure. Yes, the audience is always graciously forgiving, but I've gotten through this dance for the last three years and each time breathed a sigh of relief that I didn't embarrass myself or Kendall too much. Yet, this year was different.
A couple of weeks ago we had a talk with Kendall about dancing. She's eight now and has danced for four years. She's no prodigy, but she's a beautiful and intelligent little lady with varied interests. She has always enjoyed dancing so we were a bit surprised when she said that she might rather show horses instead of dancing again this fall. She's been taking riding lessons and enjoys them immensely.
Wrong or right my wife Nicole and I try
to give our children options. We want them to grow up understanding that decisions in life are inevitable and that you sometimes must choose to let go in one area in order to gain somewhere else. Life is an endless cost-benefit analysis.
Kendall said she'd like to show horses and maybe do Girl Scouts instead of dance. Much to my surprise, in that moment all I could think about was the Daddy-Daughter Dance. That dance- getting out there in front of people- has stressed me out for the last four years. If you don't think it takes incredible courage for these young people to leave it all on the stage, you're wrong. I've had nightmares about blanking on a move. I've practiced in my office and in front of the bathroom mirror. No horror movie holds a candle to peering out at a full house.
But now it was going to be finished. From the tear-jerker, Lee Brice's "I Don't Dance" performance choreographed by BDC owner Stacey Wawrzyniek to this year's cheerleaderesque "Jock Jams Mega-Mix" I reminisced about showing up each week, palling around with the growing group of veteran dance Dads, cracking jokes, and placing bets on who'd need an ambulance first. I thought about that smile on Kendall's face as I lifted her or spun her or grapevined across the studio floor with her. Mostly I considered the wonderful hugs of appreciation she gave me each week when she said "Daddy, I like dancing with you." Then today came and in three minutes and fifteen seconds, it was over. The spotlights dimmed, I hustled back to my seat, and I watched the rest of the lovely performances leading to the end of the show - possibly the end of a very brief, but very beautiful era.
I read once that a father's job is to be Chief Memory Maker. We're supposed to build things and say things and do things that resonate through our children's futures. I often question how good I am at doing that. I work a great deal. I'm sometimes teaching on nights and weekends, and we are busy when I'm not at work. Life often hits the accelerator just when you're trying to brake; and even though we can sometimes slow down for a moment, we can never, ever stop. Boys and school clubs, cars and proms are coming up around the next few corners for Kendall. Liam's not far behind. The pace of life makes me dizzy at times, and I was undeniably dizzy today when the terminal words "simply enfuego" rang out across Orchard Park High School Auditorium. I stared at this pretty, glasses-wearing kid as the stage lights faded on a chapter of my life with my peanut. I was rocking her to sleep just yesterday.
Invariably life moves on. I'm not sure how much of a memory I've made for Kendall, but I would not trade my memories of these practices and performances for the richest treasures in the Universe. I will never forget the dutiful Dads that did it with me, and I certainly can never thank Stacey and Samantha and Buffalo Dance Center with significant enough grace for allowing my ungainly figure onto the stage during the middle of four serious dance performances so that I could bond with my daughter. I don't know what the future holds, but I have this gift forever, and am eternally grateful. These moments were... are priceless.
Sometimes my own words convey what I mean best; other times the words have been written perfectly by someone else.
"I don't dance, but here I am - spinning you around and around in circles.
It ain't my style, but I don't care. I'd do anything with you anywhere.
Yeah, you got me in the palm of your hand, girl.
'Cause I don't dance." - Lee Brice
For now, my thanks to Miss Stacey, Miss Sam, and Buffalo Dance Center Dads for the memories. Perhaps we'll meet again.