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Posted By Opening the Heart

Linda writes:


One of the most powerful lessons I have learned about love was from my grandfather.  It is a story from my grandma and grandpa’s sixty-four year long marriage.

My grandpa and grandma had four happy children and no regrets about the life choices they had made. But when I asked my grandma one day what she would have done if she had not been raising children she said, “I would have been a ballerina”. And it was true – she loved to dance.

Although she had four children at home, she could have channeled her love of ballet into ballroom dancing which she also loved. The only problem was that my grandpa hated to dance and they rarely went.

When grandma was in her early forties she had an operation on her right leg for a minor problem. The operation went very wrong. Afterwards she began to get gangrene in her leg. 
At first they thought she might actually die. They thought they were going to have to amputate her leg in order to try and save her life. Then things improved and they thought they would have to amputate just her foot.  Still later they felt they would have to amputate only three toes.

During that time grandpa sat by grandma’s side in the hospital. The way I heard it is that in a moment of deep sorrow he promised my grandma, “Gwen, if you live I will take you dancing every week for the rest of your life.”

My grandmother lived. They did end up amputating three of her toes. Her foot and her leg always hurt after that. She always had the sensation you get when your leg has fallen asleep and the circulation is just returning. But that is a different story, a story about cheerfulness in the face of hardship and it deserves to be told another time.

But this story is about a profound promise. After grandma recovered my grandpa and she went downtown to The Terrace Ballroom and they danced. I believe he took her in his arms, looked into her eyes and they danced a dance of gratefulness, joy and love.

For nearly forty-five years they danced every week at the Terrace Ballroom until they became too old to dance anymore. They became a part of the Terrace Ballroom and the polkas and waltzes of the Terrace Ballroom became a part of them.

In part because of my grandfather I learned something crucial about love. Love is a feeling like no other that you have towards someone else. But sometimes, perhaps more importantly, love is a decision that you make again and again and again  – through thick and thin and especially when you don’t feel like it - to do that which is loving.

It is often helpful to go to things like the Opening the Heart Workshop or church or other places which can open us and remind us of the great power of love. But what happens when we go back to our daily lives?

This family story of the Terrace Ballroom has always moved me. I only hope that one day I can be so good at loving that those who come after can learn the same lessons from my life that I learned from my grandfather.

I think this poem by 14th century Sufi poet Hafiz is about my grandma and grandpa dancing for nearly half a century, she with her three toes gone but her joy for life unquenched and he who hated to dance but dancing gratefully anyway out of love:

“……You have not danced so badly, my dear,
Trying to kiss the Beautiful One. 
You have actually waltzed with tremendous style
O my sweet,
O my sweet crushed angel.”