He Took Me to the Dance

October 20, 2010

It was my first high school dance. Homecoming ’09, sophomore year. I hadn’t planned on going, neither I nor my date were big on dancing. Yet, when I finally asked him to go, he said yes. I can assure you that it was the most memorable first date a girl could ever have. All dolled up in my dress with my hair curled, I put on heels to look taller next to my six foot escort. I walked out of my room to see my date standing there wearing a tux. Where my father found the tux I’ll never know. “You ready to go Dad?” I asked. His answer was a quick yes.
My father was diagnosed with cancer the summer of ’07. In the early stages, we were all hopeful that he would be the one to beat the odds. But cancer is a resilient foe, and soon it became clear that we might not have all the time we wanted. I found myself having to deal with the very real possibility that Daddy might not always be there. I worried that he might never see his grandchildren. That he’d never get the joy of interrogating the first boyfriend, and no doubt all who followed after, I brought home. That he might never walk me down the isle. I remember crying in his arms, telling him all my worries, and I remember asking him to take me to homecoming.
The night of the dance, we were running an hour late. I didn’t care though. I was the luckiest girl in Lake Stevens. I remember that as we got out of the car, the other late arrivals were all pointing and whispering, trying to figure out which football player I had brought to the dance. I remember my dad’s chuckle as he overheard them. My dad had tumors up and down his spine, around his pelvis, and in the nerve bed of his foot. It’s a miracle he could walk at all. But nothing stopped us from hobbling our way down that school isle and slow dancing. We both cried as the music slowed and he said the three words all teenage girls dream of, “I love you.”
We could only dance for forty minutes before we had to leave because of the pain from his tumors. But that forty minutes will last me a lifetime. It was my first dance at my wedding, it was my dad walking me down the isle, his smile was that of a proud dad seeing his daughter graduate. We packed forty years into those forty minutes.
A short time after the dance, my father passed out. He was rushed to the hospital where they discovered that a tumor had broken through his C-7 vertebrae in his spine and that he had no bone supporting his neck. Further tests revealed that his back had probably been this way for a few months. My father had been walking around with no spine supporting his head, yet he had taken me to the dance. He would never walk again.
My father passed away on July 19th 2009. He was strong until the end and I know that he is watching over us from heaven. I see it in the small wonder of life. I keep him alive in the sunrise, in the smell of exhaust from the trucks he so dearly loved to work on, in the smile of my little sisters face. Though my time with my dad was cut painfully short, I will always have the memories of him. Of how much he loved he. Of our first and last dance. I know that he’s looking down at me and smiling.
I’m confident that he would be proud of the women I am becoming. Daddy, if your looking down reading this, I just want to say thank you for all you taught me. I love you Dad.
This is a poem I wrote for my Dad’s funereal:
His slow breath
His slow death
Me constantly trying
to stay strong
As my dad was dying
A new Life
A new Strife
Such a different outlook
That began
When his life was took
Just wanting to remember
His life
To stoke memories like an ember
And Now His Love
Is so far above
The earth which we a living
Now the angels
Celebrate the spirit of his giving
His Smile
His kisses
Though it make me sad
From now on
I’m just celebrating dad
The good times
the bad times
I know we’ll make it through
I love you dad
~from your baby girl to you
Marlene Pierce