Gravity is a force of attraction. It pulls us down to earth. Not quite sure what’s “attractive” about that. Useful, yes. But, some spirits were not meant for the ground. Some were meant to climb.
When my Dad was about 85 he hadn’t yet stopped to consider his age. He was still climbing on top of his roof in freezing temperatures to clean the gutters. He was still racing his dirt bike in motocross races. In his defense, he usually won his age category, admittedly, it was a very small group. Usually, he was the only one in it.
One typical Tuesday, he climbed up an apple tree to do some pruning at the top. Later that day I got a call that he had broken some ribs when he fell out of the apple tree.
“What? What was he doing IN the apple tree to begin with?”Virtually everyone asked.
“Pruning” my mother said, as if this made perfect sense for a man of his age.Which, to my parents it did.
It didn’t make sense to any of his neighbors though, who also called me when he fell out the apple tree. This was not the first thing he had fallen out of. I gave enthusiastic permission for his ladders to mysteriously disappear that night while my parents were asleep in front of the TV.
I was incredibly annoyed that he was still doing all of the work around their house. He was literally breaking his body and soul because everything was so hard for him to do in this twilight stage of his life. He was angry that his body hurt all of the time. He hated having to pay anyone good money to do something he should be able to do himself. He hated having to be stuck inside the house with my mother, mostly. But stuck inside with my mother who was now nagging him about everything begging to be done outside was intolerable. He had to sit and listen to an endless commentary while leaves clogged the gutters, and his apple trees grew out of control.
My heart broke a little at his predicament. I bought him a get-well card. The kind where you can record your own voice and I sang “Don’t fall out of the apple tree with anyone else but me.” He was floored. He couldn’t believe I found a card that sang that particular verse.
“Dad, that was me singing. I recorded it into the card. And I’m serious, wait until I get there before you get back up in that tree.” Which, of course he had to wait, because now he didn’t have any ladders to assist his mount.
Every single person who knew my Father was aghast that he thought he should be up in a tree trimming branches. I was so annoyed that he wouldn’t give in and absolutely positive that I would make much more intelligent choices when I reached the end of my tree climbing days.
Sadly the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. But I didn’t notice. I didn’t notice until someone else pointed it out and took my ladders.
In the past year I broke my hip and my neck in three places. Which is actually kind of funny to me. Why three places each? Surely, one break should have been enough. Three is like I’m being yelled at by God or that I’m a victim of a faulty genetic design. These breaks are all just wear and tear from dancing.
One typical Monday, I was complaining about my father to a friend, Jonathan. As I walked away from Jonathan on my crutches and in a neck brace to go back to rehearsal for Footloose, Jonathan said “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Well, that’s humbling.
I have never thought I had anything in common with my father. But, maybe he handed down his pride. Does pride always come before the fall? I do have some when it comes dancing. Maybe pride is our downfall, or maybe not. Maybe, it’s just loving to move, to climb, to dance, to escape the earth’s pull. Pride doesn’t seem to bounce.
It took my Dad four more years before he gave up his war with gravity and took himself out of the fight. Early one morning he took a gun out to his workshop. The workshop that housed his dusty motorcycles and formerly, his ladders. I am haunted by the shot I didn’t hear coming, even though I understand it. He had to give up. I do not. And that is where our similarity ends.
How do we save the best for last when the last is limping along? Not sure I know the answer to this. I would love to hear from anyone who does. I may end up just as annoying as my father. I’m clinging to the branches up in my tree as long as possible. I’m not getting off the dance floor yet. This is where I get to make a difference to a new generation of dancers. Those whose spirits were meant to climb and for those spirits that keep falling down. Maybe I can help them learn to bounce.
I live in a suburb next to an enormous Intel plant in a desert where I don't belong. My neighbors are techies, blue-collar football fanatics, gamblers, bankers, parents, sky-divers, nurses, pilots. I'm a dance, music and acting teacher, performer still, mother and wife hoping to be kind in this corner of my non-indigenous environment. I actually like living here. Most of the time.