Twenty five years ago today, one day after my 26th birthday, Jill and I went out on our first date.
A quarter of a century.
My life has been a game – or a dance – of two halves, so to speak.
Here’s a picture of Jill on about date number five, a month or so later. A trip up to a Jazz festival out of the city.
I remember that day still. Cool, clear spring weather out in the farmlands east of Perth.
Yesterday was a non-significant birthday for me, so we just chilled out and the four of us had dinner together at home. Our home is new enough, and nice enough, and the food was good enough, for us to feel like we were eating out.
Someone bought me one of those funky bluetooth speaker things for my birthday, so we cranked up some tunes and had a bit of dance around the dining room. No nerves at that point. No one can see us, unless the neighbours are looking out their window.
We danced in the kitchen, stacking the dishwasher. And Sophie rolled her eyes at the half-baked attempt by her parents at a slow dance. Situation normal then.
Here’s the thing about Jill: She loves to dance. And she’s pretty good at it. She used to dance all of the time before she met me. Sophie and Declan have her African rhythm. I am a true Ulster-man when it comes to dancing.
I am a dreadful dancer, or at least a nervous one. Jill danced, joyfully and laughingly, at a wedding I had to conduct a fortnight ago, and wanted me to dance as well. I said I would, to the first waltz. But the pathway to the floor was so crowded by the time we wove our way there the waltz was over, and it was on for young and old. I tapped out at that point.
And Jill? She danced on.
She came home from that wedding energised, laughing.
“Let’s go dancing somewhere soon!” she said.
I would prefer death by fire than dancing in front of other people, and there’s still a photo from our wedding dance of my with my size 9 brogue planted firmly on her dress on the dance floor.
How does Jill put up with my non-dancing ways? Here we are 25 years later and I still don’t dance – not in public at least. Jill gave up dancing in any formal sense – despite my protestations – not long after we met. She’d been asked to partner someone in dancing competitions, but said she didn’t want to spend all of that time with another man.
She dedicated her spare time to this non-dancing man.
How does Jill put up with my non-dancing ways? More to the point as many a husband asks of his own wife: How does she put up with any of my ways?
25 years together we have realised what it means to carry each other’s weaknesses, which may always remain weaknesses. We have learned to stoop for each other where we have to. We have learned to both walk – and dance – with the rich, deep limp that comes when you decide to carry each other in so many countless ways.
I’ve watched her run a half marathon and have to be carried to the St John’s tent at the end she was so worn out. But she did it. Maybe running to Jill is what dancing is to me. I hadn’t thought about that.
And now I am a dad of a teenage daughter and a 10 year old son. Dad-dancing seems strictly verboten in that set up.
25 years later our biggest regret is always how little time we get to spend with each other compared to what we’d like to. All the have-to’s of life that, although we do together, although they are a choreographed piece in and of themselves, seem to keep us slightly distracted, slightly at more of a distance than we’d like.
We crave the days off together. What would a week, a month, a year off together look like. We’re not ones for the caravan trip around Australia, but the sheer amount of uninterrupted time together would be amazing.
What else is amazing, is the grace we get to display to each other. Goodness knows we need to. We step on each other’s toes as much without dancing as with it. God’s grace anchors us in those times.
Here us, post wedding, pre reception:
25 years. Down those years we’ve danced around a lot of things too. Things we delayed dealing with. Things that we should have sorted. But to be honest, the years have enabled us to deal with them, to stop dancing around the things we need to address. To look each other in the face and, with all the solid weight of all that time, to face the music, pick the timing, and get our feet on common ground.
Will I make the next 25 years? 76 years of age? My father didn’t – just. His father didn’t by a long way. And my grandfather? I wouldn’t even know. That’s how quickly we’re forgotten.
Maybe, sometime in my retirement, I’ll bite the bullet and learn to dance. Who knows, there could be some rhythm hidden somewhere in that ageing, Ulster-born, white man’s body that could be revealed. And if there is, it will be revealed – as so many things within me are – by this woman I first went out with 25 years ago today, who loves to dance.