Mom always loved to sing as she worked around the house. Whether she was cooking or cleaning, she would also be singing or humming a song. She really didn’t have any musical talent. She wasn’t always even singing in tune, but she enjoyed hearing music on the radio and singing whether the radio was on or not.
Mom didn’t try dancing until after they moved to the retirement community in the south. There was a line dancing group and mom joined. She loved it. When their leader moved away, mom took over as the new leader. She learned the dance steps from the previous leader and from women who learned new dances with other groups. Some of the other dancers had trouble remembering the steps, so they would stand behind mom and watch the way she moved her feet.
They used taped music in the stereo system at the clubhouse. They just moved some of the tables when they danced, and replaced them when they were done. Once or twice a week they danced for an hour. I went one time to watch and I quickly learned that I couldn’t keep up with mom and her dancers. Besides that, it was hot as they didn’t run the air conditioner.
Dad often videotaped mom and the dancers when they put on a show at the clubhouse. This was sometimes after a special holiday dinner. He also made some videotapes of their dance practice.
Often even in the summer when I visited mom at her northern home, she went in the backyard with a portable tape player to practice her dance steps. She didn’t want to forget anything and she didn’t want to get out of practice over the summer.
After mom passed the age of 85, she gave up leading the line dancing group, and stopped dancing altogether herself. She felt like she couldn’t keep up any more but she always missed it. She continued to correspond with most of the women who had participated in the line dance group with her.
When mom and dad moved from their mobile home to assisted living, I cleaned out their mobile home. I found many boxes of tapes of the line dance music, the written instructions for the steps for each song, and video tapes of the group performances. I moved some to the assisted living facility for mom to watch the videos, and shipped the rest to my home.
Later when mom fell and broke her hip, she reminisced about her dance group and the fun that they had. She told me about the cards and letters she had received from the ladies that danced with her. She had a scrapbook of photographs and letters she had received and talked about that.
Mom thought she heard music when she was in her hospital bed. She was hooked up to a machine that pumped air into tubes around her legs. The air compressor made sounds as it tightened the tubes and loosened them again. This was to keep her blood moving in her legs and prevent clots. She thought the machine sounded like it was playing the song “Elvira”. Over and over she sang along with it. “Elvira, Elvira. My heart’s on fire. Elvira.”
Even when the physical therapist came to her room to help her keep her strength up while she healed, she talked to him about how much she missed the line dancing. I walked into the room one morning and there was Tony, the physical therapist, sitting beside mom on the side of her bed as they sang: “Elvira”.
Unfortunately after about a week mom had to give up physical therapy as her condition worsened. She continued to talk about walking more when she got back to her assisted living and how she wanted them to start line dancing there too. Soon mom was too sick to even sit up without assistance and she passed away less than 3 weeks after her fall.
Mom has been gone over a year now. Still, I can’t turn on the radio or pass a store where they are playing: “Elvira”, without getting tears in my eyes. Even now as I write, I see mom singing in the hospital and the tears run down my face.
My heart’s on Fire, Elvira.”
Mom, I miss you.