I thought it was just going to be another summer, just another season going by in my life. I'm Ben Brown and have been a widower for three years now since my wife passed away. I loved her and did all I could do to help her through her sickness. We were married for eight years before cancer took its toll on her.
It wasn't until after her death that I learned a lot about her past that I wish I had never found out. That's another story I need to tell sometime. I needed to move away and try to start over, which is rough to do when you're sixty-two and alone.
I married when I was young the first time and needed to grow up but Mary got pregnant so I did what I thought was right. She lost the baby when she was around four months pregnant. We really didn't have a whole lot of anything else holding us together and we divorced within the year.
I became an over the road truck driver and I liked the life of being able to do my own thing. I was like a sailor with a woman in every port. If it ever got beyond sex, I'd stop seeing them. I wasn't marriage material even though I liked kids.
After twenty-five years on the road, it became old and I wanted to settle in one place. I applied for a job driving truck in Ohio where it was daily routes and I could sleep in the same bed every night. The money was less but I didn't have any money problems. I had saved and invested over the years and I had insurance, so all was well.
That's when I met June at a singles meeting. We hit it off and before long, only a couple of months, I asked her to marry me. She hesitated at first but then said yes and we flew to Las Vegas to tie the knot. We really didn't know a lot about each other but at that point we figured we had the rest of our life to learn.
Life seemed good till they discovered the cancer. The sickness and treatments took its toll and eventually she died. After her death, I sorted through her things and gave most of it to her daughter and granddaughter. I couldn't live in our condo anymore and moved out to a senior housing facility. I figured the change would do me good.
I no longer had to cut the grass or worry about upkeep of the building. This was an upper class (expensive) retirement home. Each apartment had its own kitchen and two bedrooms and living room. The units were unfurnished so I brought in my own comfy old furniture.
Each apartment had a nice porch overlooking the scenic area and complex. The retirement home was for people fifty-five or older who were in fairly good health. There was a nurse on staff but it wasn't a nursing facility. It had a huge pool and hot tub as well as an exercise room with a sauna.
A restaurant on the premises served breakfast and a combination of lunch and dinner in the late afternoon. The meals were a very reasonable price and I was surprised at how good the food was.
It was quite a facility and guests could come for dinner or even a swim. Many invited their children and grandchildren over for an afternoon. You had to be an invited guest to attend any activities at the center. I really had no one since the death of June. I saw less and less of her daughter and granddaughter.
There were always activities going on at the center. There were bus trips to see shows, movies, museums, and many other things. I met a number of men at the center and we played chess, checkers, and even pool and billiards. I liked swimming and did a couple of laps each day for exercise. I didn't want to become any softer or flabbier than I already was.
A majority of the members of Winsor Wood Place, that's the name of the home, were married. But I also met some that were single. Madge was one of them. She was a looker with a pleasant personality. At dinner one evening, she sat next to me and we introduced ourselves and talked a little about our families.
Madge said her husband had died two years before and her daughter convinced her to move into Windsor Wood Place. She said it was the best move she had ever made. She was fifty-eight but looked more like forty-eight. As we talked, she asked me if I was going to join the Swinging Seniors. Needless to say, it took me by surprise and I know my jaw dropped open.
"I have no idea what you are talking about," I said and she began laughing. She had such a pretty smile.
"I'm sorry; I thought you knew about our dance club. It's about a mile down the road. It's not connected in any way to Windsor Wood but a lot of the members who live here belong. It got it's name because it's a square and line dancing club. We're having a membership drive for our new season."
"What all goes on there?" I asked.
"Well, it's a gathering place for us more mature people. Our main premise is making life a little happier. We have square dancing groups and we participate in all the area fairs. Do you square dance or line dance?" asked Madge.
"Not lately." I said with a smile on my face. "I do like line dancing. Tell me more about the club."
"It's sort of a night out for seniors. It's open in the evening three nights a week for those who want a little fun without embarrassment. They have mostly country music and they do serve food. There's an annual fee to belong but well worth it."
"Does a member have to square dance?" I asked.
"Lord no! All our members are over fifty-five and some aren't able to dance at all but they like the friendly atmosphere. You should stop by this coming Saturday and see for yourself. There's an open house for new members. We have a membership drive every April. The club is open on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. If you want to be part of the square dance and line dancing team we practice on Monday and Wednesday afternoons when the club is closed."
"What do you mean by embarrassment?"
"Many of the mature adults have said that their kids and grandkids have a tendency to laugh or talk about how they dance and their choice of music. They feel they can let loose and be their selves without embarrassment. We all still have the younger person in us. It's fun to release our inner self once in awhile."
I told her I would think about it and after she ate her dinner, she smiled, got up, and left. I couldn't help but look at her behind in those tight jeans as she left. A few of the other men watched her, too. They might have been old but I could tell she stoked their furnace.
Over the next couple of days I found out most of the older couples didn't belong to the Swinging Seniors although a few had in the past. Some of those under seventy said they still belonged but didn't dance. It was a fun night out was what I was told. I decided to give it a try that Saturday. Madge greeted me when I arrived.
They did have drinks and music like she said. Non-alcoholic drinks were also served. It was surprising to see so many mature people dancing and having fun. It actually made me feel younger. I was tapping my foot to the beat of the music. They had a jukebox with country and western and lots of oldies but goodies on it.
I noticed a few couples from Windsor Wood dancing. Madge showed me around and explained some of the rules. The cost to belong was three hundred dollars a year for a single and five hundred for a couple.
I mentioned that I thought it was quite high but she told me there were many benefits especially if you were a member of the square dance group. They served dinner meals all three evenings with everything from a salad buffet to chicken and steak dinners. If you wanted anything special, the chef would make it for you.
I noticed a large recreation room in the back with slot machines. Most were dime and quarter machine so a person could play for a long time. I saw one lady win a couple of hundred dollars. It was fun seeing how excited she got.
I also noticed a wing of the building with a sign on the door that read 'Private area, permission required' and asked Madge about it.
"They're individual rooms for those who drink too much and are unable to drive home. They're also used for other special occasions which I'll tell you about later."
We talked more about being part of the dance group. Madge asked members Mary and Ed to explain the square dancing. They seemed to both be in their early sixties and in great physical shape. Mary was quite the looker for her age. She began the explanation of the dance group.
"We have tryouts for square dancing but everyone can be part of the line dancing if they want to. Each year we try to get at least sixteen couples to take part. We do most all the fairs and homecomings within a hundred mile radius. Sometimes we do as many as two shows a week. We receive donations for performing and turn the money over to the club.
"Each member of the team receives two complete outfits per season. If they want more, they can purchase it. We practice on Mondays and Wednesdays till our performances begin. After that, we might meet once a week for a short practice. The reason we need so many couples is we like to have two arenas of dancers, which take eight men and eight women. Not everyone can make every performance.
"If we have more show up we can always make a third arena. The practice is hard but you will feel great doing it. The exercise is fantastic and we all become good friends. Our season begins at the end of May and runs until the end of summer in September. After that, we do benefits once or twice a month through the end of the year.
"This year we'll be going to Branson in December, Dollywood in November, and on a cruise ship in October. We'll wait till we get our teams picked and hold a meeting to see who is interested in the special events. Any questions?" asked Mary.
"You've answered most but how do you pick the teams?" I asked. "After all, I haven't square danced in years."
"No problem. It's like riding a bike and will all come back. We'll work with you and explain everything you need to know. Our only problem is a few members drop out each year due to age, health, and other reasons. Some can dance into their eighties and others into their seventies. That's why we're always looking for new members."
To make a long story short I joined the club and the square dance team. There were thirty-two members and a couple of extra couples who said they could substitute if needed. They paired me off with Madge. The guys I played chess with couldn't believe how I got so lucky. The first day of practice was a lot harder than I ever expected. It was as if I forgot my left from my right. I thought I was going to get kicked off the team but instead they were all laughing.
"Don't worry, you'll get it," said Madge. "You really did quite well for the first time. You'll only get better from here."
The following morning I ached like hell. I went for a swim in the pool just to help with the aches and pains. There were a few other members of the group relaxing in the pool also. Madge came down in a one-piece suit; she looked good.
"I ache all over," I said to Madge.
She laughed and said, "We all do. It's part of being old and not using the muscles as much. After a couple of weeks you'll feel a lot better."
"If I live a couple of weeks," I said and laughed.
I did get better and I have to admit I was having a good time. A month before I would never have believed I would be square dancing and having fun doing it. We were ready to start our first season and we had three arenas. The homecoming had a parade and our dancers were on a float. It was surprising to see all the people that showed up to watch the parade.
It seems that most of the members' families showed up. I heard several kids yelling out to their grandparents. But what surprised me the most was when I saw my stepdaughter and granddaughter waving at me. I had told them I was part of the Swinging Seniors Dance group but I didn't realize they were coming to see me. I have to admit it was a good feeling.
Our performance went by without a hitch. I introduced Madge to my stepdaughter and granddaughter. They said they loved the show and after a little while left to enjoy the rest of the homecoming. I then met Madge's daughter and two grandchildren. After that, Madge and I walked around the fair and enjoyed ourselves.
We had been attending fairs for about a month when Madge mentioned she had something to tell me. The first thing I thought was that she wasn't going to be my partner.
"Ben, once a month the club throws an after party for the dancers. If a member went to a minimum of two events in that month, he was welcome to attend. It's not for everyone but if you're interested I'll explain it to you."
"Of course I want to know about it. You say it's only for the dancing group and only if they made at least two events? I went to all eight; it was fun."
"Yes, needless to say you qualify. There's a lot of dancing but the Swinging Seniors become just that," replied Madge.
"What do you mean? Swinging as in sexual?" I asked rather surprised. I do have to admit that some of the women seemed a bit overly friendly. For seniors, they kept themselves in good physical condition.
"Yes, as in sexual. You can go to the party and enjoy yourself but you don't have to participate if you don't want to. You can still dance or just eat and drink and even feel Mary." It was a play on words since Mary seemed to come on to me. I just figured she was being friendly.
"Are you taking part in the after party?" I asked Madge.
She stared at me before speaking. "Ben, what you need to know is the sexual contact is not love. The married couples have been married from twenty-five to forty years. They love each other but let's face it, many have wanted to try other partners for years. There was always the problem of messing up their marriage.
"With our club they can have sex with someone else and not be afraid of losing their spouse. Both spouses have to sign a form stating that they are all right with the swinging games. The main thing to remember is 'No means No!'. Also, there isn't a lot of kissing. Most couples feel that's too personal. I know that seems funny but that's the rule."
"Madge, you didn't answer my question. Will you be taking part in the party?" I asked again.
"Ben, I already told the ladies that you're mine the first time, if you choose to party. Why do you think I wanted you as my partner? I like you a lot and think we could have fun together. I have no interest in marriage, which I want you to know up front. I'm happy with my life and living alone but I do like to party."
"So we'll be friends with benefits," I replied. "I like that idea. I've been married twice and am happy making my own choices. I guess I'm set in my ways. By the way, I like you a lot too and hoped we could get together some time."
The night of the after party, I drove over to the club. Mary and Ed were checking in the people who were attending. Mary looked at me and said, "You may be with Madge this time but next time I get dibs on you." I was surprised to see that Ed laughed along with Mary.