Principles Of The Grand Right And Left

Last year, February 25, 2018, my father lay breathing heavily, in and out of consciousness, in a hospice in southern Texas.  For the last couple days, my brothers and I had taken turns sitting with our father at night.  But this was daytime – mid-morning – and we were all at the hospital.

As I sat close to Dad, and as others carried on their conversations, I wrote a story.  A story I thought might sum up my father’s life, or at least a part of it.  I read the story to those in the room.  And I truly believe Dad listened and heard it, too – on what turned out to be the last day of his life.

Here is part of the story I wrote:

Principles Of The Grand Right And Left

Of the many things my Dad used to do, he was a square dance caller.

A square dance is known as a “friendly dance.”  Four couples form a square, and they perform a sequence of moves, according to what a caller tells them to do.

Square dance moves have names.  You can think of them as different levels of courtesy and friendliness.  “Bow” to your partner.  “Allemande left with your corner.”  “Promenade” with your partner.

They are all ways to show different degrees of friendliness with other members of the square.

The most intimate and exciting move is the “swing.”  Whoever the caller tells you to swing – your partner,  your corner, whoever  – this is where the man and woman hold each other by the waste and spin around as one.

The square dance is the perfect dance for an engineer (like my father).  Just follow a set of instructions and move with the music, and have fun.

My father used to be a square dance caller.  When we’d have a gathering of many people – say, a family event, or a neighborhood event – Dad would bring along his record player and microphone, and he would teach everybody the moves to a dance.  Then he would turn on the music, and he would call the dance.

And when things went awry, and the squares hit snags, Dad wouldn’t stop the music immediately.  No, he’d let the music play a little bit more while all the dancers stood laughing.

I think the square dance move that best illustrates my father’s life is the Grand Right and left – sometimes called the Right and Left Grand.  It’s a move where an inside circle moves one way and the outside circle goes the other way.

As you pass people in the other circle, you extend your right hand to the first person, and pass by him on the right side.  Then you extend your left hand to the next person, and pass by him on the left.

You continue walking around, extending your right hand, then left hand, then right again, etc., passing people on your left and right side until the caller tells you to do something different.

{This story continues and has a happy ending.  If you want to receive the rest of this story, just write your name and email.   And I’ll make sure to send the little book to you, directly. }

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