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Karen Wielinski: Dancing helps us celebrate life, love

I remember my first dance. With a smile and a twinkle in his eye, he took my hands in his, and I wrapped my arms around him. Stepping on his feet, it took me a moment to keep my balance, but he held me tenderly, and Dad and I swayed to the music.

Over time, the rhythmic motion of dance has provided moments to remember.

Proms were definitely opportunities to dance. A week before the junior prom, my date Tom informed me that he had mono and could not go. Tom and I lost touch over the years, but fate stepped in. Tom’s daughter sent an application to the school where I worked, and after emailing back and forth, Tom and his wife invited me to dinner. It was an evening filled with reminiscing and laughter.

As I was leaving, Tom motioned from the kitchen for me to come back. Music played in the background. With a smile, he asked, “Hear that? Sixties music. How about that dance we never shared?” I was transformed once again into a 16-year-old.

I met my husband, Doug, at a ballgame in Getzville. We seemed to click that night. The next week, we joined some of the group at a disco. The place was crowded and hot. As an evening of dancing progressed, I looked like a drowned rat, with perspiration dripping off me. Doug, apparently not repulsed by my physical appearance, stayed on the dance floor with me. Later he walked me to my car, and we shared our first kiss.

I came across a picture of Doug and me taken before a PTO dance. I dressed as Karen from the Mickey Mouse Club, and Doug was a slick dude, reflecting the ’50s dance theme. That night was special, as we hip-hopped like professionals.

One of my pet peeves with my sons-in-law is that dancing is not on their list of things they like to do. If a slow dance or two will make your wives happy, why is it so difficult to give them that small pleasure?

Attending a wedding in 2008, I knew my daughter Kim was waiting for her boyfriend to slow dance with her. Doug looked at me and said, “Maybe if I dance with her, he will cut in.” Kim keeps a photo on her dresser that captures that dance with her Dad. Doug’s strategy worked; the boyfriend cut in.

On Aug. 1, 2009, less than six months after the devastating crash of Flight 3407, my daughter Lori was married. At the reception, my daughters held hands and danced in a circle during the traditional father-daughter dance. I watched with pride – as I knew Doug would have – as they showed their love and determination to carry on.

In August 2015, I attended a wedding reception for a young man who lost his girlfriend on Flight 3407. I, and many of the 3407 family members, had always hoped he could find love again. The right woman came along.

The bride and groom’s Irish and Polish heritage reverberated through the hall. I joined the other 3407 family members, as we danced to polkas and jitterbugs. The dancing took my breath away, but our motto that night seemed to scream: We will dance until we ache, and our sweat will become our tears. We remember, but we carry on, celebrating the lives of those we lost.

Life has come full circle. I say to my grandchildren, “Come dance with me,” as they cautiously place their feet on mine to begin their dance journey. I hope they will enjoy the beauty and emotional sincerity of the dance.