Jim was working as an assistant cruise director. The male staff had to dance with the elderly ladies who were traveling by themselves. Whenever they saw these passengers in one of the lounges, they were required to strike up a conversation and offer to dance with them.
On one particular Saturday night, the ship’s program called for fifteen minutes of music and dancing in the main lounge. Jim looked around and spotted a lady sitting off to the side, her foot stomping away to the beat of a lively Glenn Miller tune. She looked like she was in her seventies, on the petite side, and was wearing a wig that was unevenly pulled to the side.
Jim walked to her, introduced himself and asked her if she wanted to dance. She smiled at him and said, “No, thank you.”
Jim mentioned that he had seen her tapping to the music and knew she was enjoying the Big Band sound. Reaching out his hand and gently placing it in hers, Jim said, “Come on, let’s go have some fun.”
She got up and they made their way to the dance floor. To Jim’s surprise, she was a very good dancer. Her eyes were all lit up, and she was smiling. She showed Jim all kinds of great swing-step moves, and Jim desperately tried to keep up with her. They were the kind of dance steps a professional swing dancer use. She was really phenomenal!
The music ended, Jim walked her back to her seat and knew her name was Isabel. As they sat down, Jim noticed the tears in her eyes. She reached down into her purse, pulled out a tissue and began to cry.
“Have I done something to upset you?” Jim asked. “Was it my poor dancing abilities? I’m sorry.”
She looked up and assured Jim that he had done nothing wrong. “I love to dance,” she said. “My husband and I would go dancing every Saturday night. We never missed an opportunity.”
Isabel tried to compose herself, but her face was overcome with emotion. “My husband and I always dreamed of dancing at sea together. We talked about going on a cruise, and we saved up our money.” Isabel drew a deep breath and continued, “Then on Saturday evening, just as we were getting dressed to go out, he sat down on our bed and said he needed to rest for a few minutes. Well,” she said gently, “he never woke up.”
Jim could see her love for her husband in every wrinkle of her precious face.
“I haven’t danced in twenty-eight years,” she paused and looked at Jim with a smile, “until now.”
Then she gave Jim a hug and whispered, “Thank you for being my partner tonight.”