Seated at the small, square “Table 8,” dead center to the stage across the hardwood dance floor, my backdrop was a blur of seniors swinging across it while I chatted with the birthday boy, his friend Dickie Greene and Dick’s next generation lookalike, Doug. The boys were quizzing me on the kids, the job and the Joyce, so I obliged them by stringing out a story of a recent visit to Tiffany’s that didn’t end quite the way their interested faces expected. Somewhere in the chat session, I learned Dad doesn’t get out of the house much at all, and that the ratio of women to men at “the Villages” is 2 to 1. I did notice many groups of 2 or 3 women sitting the sidelines together, just waiting for someone from the thinning herd to ask them to dance.
As I trimmed an oriental chicken salad to the porcelain, I noticed a blond woman standing on the left side of the balcony above the stage. She immediately reminded me of Dad’s widow, Caroline, but without my glasses, she was a distant silhouette at best. Crunching lettuce and oriental noodles, I glanced just barely to my left and saw Dad’s focus move up to the balcony. Almost immediately and quickly, the blond woman moved to her right and back, out of sight.
“Dad, did you see that woman up on the balcony?”
“Yeah, but she disappeared.”
“Did she remind you of Caroline?”
Dad’s eyes scanned floor and the outskirts most of the evening and he once commented about another blond, a tall one, “She’s well preserved.” After dinner and the show, which included a young kid and his band playing originals and covers by Hank Williams Sr. and Ernest Tubbs Jr., we sauntered… Well, actually, dad does sort of an old man shuffle that he mocked just a few years ago. Whatever. I’ve lost a step or two, um, too. We sat on a park bench and listened to another band playing up on the gazebo bandstand that’s the center of the town square.
“Dad, you really seem to enjoy yourself when we get out down here,” I suggested. “I could do without it,” was the terse reply. I re-tried the angle of how all the great “stories” of our lives that we tell usually involve people. “Dad, that’s why we’re here.” Leo Sr. responded that he has no desire to meet another woman. I understood, but it kills me to see him doing very little “living” in the late years of his life here. I tried once more, “Dad, as long as you’re alive… Live.” He looked at me for a few seconds and then simply said, “Ya.”