The regulars, who visit the resort, all get to know each other, well, recognize each other by sight. For everyone is here for a night out of drinks and dancing with music provided by various bands.
This night there is a new person sitting at the bar alone. A short man of undetermined age, slicked back thinning hair, dressed in a short-sleeved white shirt, skinny tie, black slacks, white socks, and dress shoes. Very formally dressed reminding my husband of a Baptist preacher. Is he a local or a hotel guest?
Nursing a beer, he watches as the band sets up, chatting up those sitting on either side of him. Soon the band, a good band that everyone loves, is ready, and the night begins. Slow music at first for those dinner guests still eating or those wishing to slow dance. Then up-tempo into faster music. At this point, the man begins to direct the band.
The regulars all try not to stare as the man gets animated in both his frenetic dance moves of flailing arms and his ‘I’m not worthy’ homage to the band. Must be a visitor, many think to themselves.
But no, the man eventually known as Charlie returns the following Saturday and every one thereafter until he is considered one of the regulars even if his behavior raises eyebrows and causes eye rolls among the other patrons. The bands just indulgently smile as he directs them and then bows to them when songs are finished. The less wary women will agree to dance with him, at least once, until his antics on the dance floor bother them. He talks on his cell phone gesturing wildly as he does so, yet according to some, his cell phone appears to be a block of wood painted black.
For months this continues until one night he is sitting not front and center at the bar, but at a table eating dinner with a lump of a woman with a blank expression on her face. The rumors begin that this is his wife, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. All night long, Charlie is solicitous and kind, hovering over her like a mother hen with her chick. He leaves her side only once to dance wildly in front of her as if to get her to respond, but she doesn’t. They leave early, even before the band’s break.
The next week he returns, alone again, sitting at the bar, nursing a beer, talking to people on either side of him, dancing, directing the band, and generally acting the fool. And so on it goes.
Weeks pass, and again he is dining with the frizzy, white-haired woman with the blank expression. The pattern is repeated except now, the rumors are confirmed: this is his wife, who lives in a ward for patients with Alzheimer’s.
Again and again, every month or so, Charlie brings his wife to dine, and slowly, ever so slowly, there is an awakening. First, she seems less blank and smiles timidly when the music begins, and then one night she seems to sing along with the band as if the muscle memory of old lyrics kicks in. Finally, one Saturday night months later, he coaxes her onto the dance floor. They slow dance together as he softly croons in her ear.
That was the last time the regulars saw her as it becomes known that she has passed away. Charlie comes a few times more himself, always dressed as he was the first night, always playing the clown until it’s reported that he, too, has died.
Was it all an act, this outrageous behavior of Charlie’s, or was it an act of love to help bring Lucy back, to help unlock memories? Or was it a combination of both: acting the fool so that no one would notice Lucy’s dementia by focusing on his antics? We will never know. As for me, I hope it was an act of love. That he was the sad pirouette playing happy to awaken his long lost Lucy.