© Another Day in the Country
Ballroom dancing has been on my bucket list for years — ever since I first made a bucket list, to be exact. I grew up in a religion that forbids dancing of any kind so I just didn’t learn to move my body in that way. Through the years, since “dancing” appeared on my list of “Things To Do,” I’ve tried different approaches.
I got a video and tried to learn line dancing in my living room — but that wasn’t fun trying to figure out the moves alone.
When my daughter decided to have a dance at her wedding, I took lessons so I could at least learn to do the waltz and a friend twirled me around the floor.
I went to Jolly Mixer’s over in Salina for a while with my sister; but that was less than satisfying without a partner. Tooltime Tim went with me when he could but dancing really wasn’t his thing.
At one point, I even asked one of the “move-in’s” in Ramona to go to a square dance with me and he said, “You really don’t want me to go with you,” and I discovered he was right.
I used to make fun of the folk who watched dancing on television, equating them with the Lawrence Welk set who surely had nothing better to do, until I discovered “Dancing with the Stars” for myself. Now I’m hooked. I love watching that program with all the creativity and absolutely gorgeous dancing.
I’ve seen contestants with all kinds of handicaps learning to dance exquisitely (which does give me hope), but this year’s line-up included a young man who is deaf, which just blew me away! How does one dance if you can’t hear the music?
Umpteen years ago when I went back to college, I took a class in American Sign Language as a lark. As part of the class we had to plug our ears and go without sound for 24 hours. You can imagine what an enlightening experience that was! I thought I’d always appreciated my ability to hear until I went without it for a day and then my feeling was profound gratitude.
As we age, we sometimes joke about our creeping loss of hearing, as we turn up the volume on the television another notch. But we haven’t lost it all in the aging process, we’ve just lost a spectrum of this grand phenomenon.
To hear is a precursor to learning, to relating to the world around us, and without that fine sense, we have to depend on something else to give us our cues.
Every week I’ve watched in astonishment as this young man on “Dancing with the Stars” reveals something more of his talent, his drive, his determination to introduce us to his world. He is educating the American public about hearing loss and, hopefully, infusing them with compassion.
My sign language teacher, all those years ago, told me that he could feel vibration and thus enjoy music. My teacher had lost his hearing as a teenager so he could converse with relative ease. He’d already learned to speak when deafness became his way of life.
Even so, I saw the ways he was shut off from the world because he couldn’t hear. There were social cues — like someone else talking — that he couldn’t hear. There was nuance that he couldn’t pick up. There was a profound isolation in the tumult of the hearing world.
Today I am filled with gratitude for the gift of hearing — the swish of water from the faucet, the sound of rain running down the drain spout, the clink of the cup against the counter, the soft patter of the computer keys underneath my fingers as I write.
I hear! Not as well as I used to when the slightest squeak was annoying and a vibration somewhere in the dashboard of the car drove me nuts. Every once in awhile my daughter will joke, “It sounds like a scene from the Miracle Worker around here,” when we’re going “What?” or “I didn’t get that,” but “Hey, I can hear!”
And maybe, just maybe, I’ll learn to ballroom dance, on another day in the country.