June 7, 2008
Down in Murrellís Inlet is the VFW where the songwriterís organization hosted a benefit for the Ladies Auxiliary to raise money for Operation Uplink. The premise of the program is to send phone cards to our overseas troops and hospitalized service members so that they may call home.
It was a successful day, but my entry isnít about the what, itís about the who.
Inside the building gracing the walls are unit shields and photos of officers. Blackened corners of the frame indicate that this person is deceased. There are a lot of them hanging in neat rows, a testament to the dedication of these men even after they had done their time. This was a place to find support and healing. Any one who has ever had a Vet in their family knows what Iím talking about. And, if, that family member was in service during war timeÖwell, thatís a story for another entry.
Jack was drunk when I got there. He was having a really good time. When the musicians began to play, Jack was dancing, first alone and then his equally drunk friend Bob danced with him. Their womenfolk were too ashamed to be seen with the likes of Drunken Jack and Buddy Bob.
My friend, known here as Artsy Girl, and I were sitting under a tree, listening, chatting and watching ol Jack and Bob shake their money-makers. They would swill their beer, holler for more tunes and laugh while they danced. Bob left the make-shift dance floor to take a pee, and Jack was left there by his lonesome. He asked Artsy Girl to dance. Much to my surprise, she said no. Then, he asked me. I said what the hell and cut a rug with the old fart and humor him. Thing was, Jack could dance. Even in his chemically enhanced state, he hadnít forgotten the steps. He held my hand and twirled me around, he asked me if I was married and not to tell his wife we were together. I had to smile. Jack might have been old enough to be my grandfather.
For nearly fifteen minutes Jack and I danced. It was kind of Swing mixed in with the Shag and the Charleston. Jack was impressed I knew the Charleston. My grandma taught me in the kitchen of her archaic farmhouse; the same kitchen where my red soda pop exploded and got on the ceiling. She refused to wipe it off because she didnít want to have to clean the whole thing.
Jack got quiet. I wondered what he was thinking. Did I remind him of that nice girl that brought sandwiches to the train? Maybe I was a lot like that one lady at the USO. I might look like his best friendís girl. Or, perhaps for a moment, while looking into my eyes, he saw the young woman his wife had once been-or he saw who he was when he was with her back in the day. Possibly, I resembled a nurse at the hospital that soothed his weary brow. Iím not real sure where Jack went when he looked into my eyes and his boyish grin returned, if only for a fleeting moment to an old manís face. Maybe he danced with me to remember, maybe he danced to forget.