I promised him I would stop by the Optimist building Tuesday night. He told me over the phone that it “would mean the world to me if you could drop in for a minute or two.”
Over the years Dave Eder and I have worked together on a number of community projects. During that period we’ve developed a solid friendship.
There was no way I was going to let him down on his 72nd birthday.
The building was packed when I walked in the door. I worked my way across the dance floor to the back of the room where the band was playing a cover version of a popular George Strait song, being careful to stay out of the way of the couples two-stepping around the room.
I found an empty space near the stage and grabbed my camera out of the bag. There was Dave, playing lead guitar with his band, tapping his foot as he played and grinning ear-to-ear as he gazed out at the dance floor filled with couples stepping and twirling and smiling.
He didn’t see me at first. I snapped a couple of pictures and he turned toward the flash from the camera. Recognizing me, he smiled, gave me a nod and continued playing without missing a beat. As the lead singer finished the final note of “Amarillo by Morning,” Dave stepped up to the microphone and announced the band would take a short break.
After resting his guitar on the stand by the stage, he walked up to me and gave me a big hug.
“Thank you for coming,” he said. “This is pretty special. I really wanted you to be here and share this with me.”
We talked for a few minutes as a crowd gathered around, all wanting to congratulate Dave on his birthday, or thank him for the community dances he and The Final Showdown Band holds every month.
In between handshakes and congratulations, Dave asked me if I would do a story about the band and how the community dances began — initially as a fundraiser for the Waxahachie Senior Center when it was located in the Optimist building on Patrick Street.
I told him I would be honored, wished him happy birthday again and watched as he was whisked away to visit with a group of folks sitting at one of the tables. Shouting over the din of the 100 or so folks in the room, I told him I’d catch up with him later in the week. He smiled, gave me a nod and was off.
For the past month or so Dave has been telling me he was retiring this year — from his full-time contracting job as well as his other career as a musician. He said he was going to finally make the time to do some of the things he’s always wanted to do, but didn’t because he was too busy. In those heartfelt talks we’ve shared on the patio at the newspaper, he told me his bucket list mostly consisted of ways to spend more time with his children and grandchildren while he still had the time to do so.
I completely understand his feelings.
But Dave has been telling me he was going to retire for years. I just can’t see Dave ever slowing down. There’s always someone wanting him to help build a house, a community cause in need of a fundraiser and, a dance floor filled with folks waiting for the band to play.
I don’t know. When he called me Monday asking me to come to this week’s dance, I noticed something different in his voice — something more than a friendly request to share a slice of birthday cake.
None of us know what the future holds in store. While I still can’t see Dave slowing down, I pray he finds a way to do all of the things he wants to do. I look forward to the opportunity to spending more time with Dave and sharing the story behind the band. Mostly, I’m glad I had the chance to be there Tuesday night and wish my friend a happy 72nd birthday.
Neal White is the Editor and General Manager of Waxahachie Newspapers Inc. His recent novel, “Crosswinds” published by The Next Chapter Publishing, is available at Amazon.com. Contact Neal at email@example.com or 469-517-1470. Follow Neal on Facebook at Neal White – Waxahachie Newspapers Inc., or on Twitter at wni_nwhite.