Thank you, CoCo. By Pat Bertram

Coco Ihle has not missed her blog day ever since she joined this blog after the publication of her novel, She Had to Know. (If you haven’t already read She Had to Know, I recommend this atmospheric mystery set mostly in Scotland.) Because Coco was faced with the threat of Irma and didn’t know if she’d be able to post today she asked me to post something for her. I agreed, seeing this as the perfect opportunity to thank Coco for the role she played in my life.


In February 2013, Coco posted a blog about being a belly dancer called Belly Dancing…Dangerous?

At the time, I was looking for something to jump start my life. My life mate/soul mate had been dead almost three years, and I was still prone to tears and sadness. Though I was getting tired of the sorrow and the feeling that perhaps I too had died, I didn’t know how to move away from the void. Belly dancing seemed to strike a chord with me since it was vastly different from anything I’d ever attempted (my exploits have generally been more cerebral than physical), but I didn’t see myself dancing. Somehow, what would be alluring for a young woman did not seem quite so exotic for a woman tottering past middle age.

But Coco didn’t agree. She said, “Oh, you’d be surprised, Pat. I taught at Auburn University and my students were all ages. Interestingly enough, the older ones were overall more confident, graceful, and generally more creative than the younger ones. The beauty in dancing, like many art forms, comes from within. Perhaps you may like to try it.”

I thanked her but never really considered taking dance classes. I presumed one had to be graceful, athletic, willowy, and musically inclined, all characteristics that elude me, and yet, late that July I happened to notice a nearby dance studio that taught older adults. I tiptoed into dance on August 7 with a jazz class (jazz because it was the one class I didn’t have to buy any shoes or accoutrements). By mid September, I was taking not only jazz but Hawaiian, tap, ballet, and yep, belly dancing.

To my surprise, I found that learning to dance gave me a vacation from myself and my grief, allowed me to surrender to something greater than myself, offered me a new challenge, and most of all, brought me moments of happiness at a time when I thought happiness would forever pass me by.


In the intervening years, though I still am not as graceful as I wish, and still am not willowy or musically inclined, I’ve learned dozens of numbers, performed many times with my class, and continue to find joy both in learning to dance and in surrendering to the movement and the moment.

All because Coco put the idea of dance into my head. All because Coco inspired and encouraged me.

So thank you, Coco. I hope Irma treats you kindly.

(P.S. The last I heard, Coco was all right, hunkered down behind hurricane-proof windows at a friend’s house.)


Pat Bertram is the author of five suspense novels: Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.



Filed under life, Pat Bertram

11 responses to “Thank you, CoCo. By Pat Bertram

  1. You’re in my prayers, Coco!

  2. Oh, I love this post. I can almost imagine taking up dance, though in school they always told me I was clumsy, graceless, and totally lacking in any sense of rhythm. Since my husband lacks any sense of dance and thinks it a waste of time, I suspect I shall never try, but I loved your giving me the feeling that maybe I could.

  3. Cheryl hilzer

    What a great article on Coco. She is a wonderful person and am so glad I have had a chance to know her.

  4. I can identify with this post because I did something similar after my wife passed unexpectedly. I took up ballroom dancing after I was rejected by the local widows and widowers grief support group because I wasn’t old enough to join. You had to be at least 60. I was 58 at the time. Fortunately for me, I eventually met a woman who became my dance partner. We married years later.

  5. Oh, my goodness, Pat, I am humbled by your post. Thank you for your kind words! I have a confession. My adopted mother signed me up for ballet lessons when I was little, because I was a rather clumsy child and then she kept saying I was graceful. Everyone believes what their mother tells them, right? It wasn’t until I was first married that my husband told me I was clumsy and I realized my mother had fibbed to me all those years ago in the hopes I’d be more confident. Ha!
    Thank you everyone for the emails, cell phone messages, and landline messages. I made it through Irma just fine. I stayed with my neighbor right behind me who had hurricane windows and roof, and I could keep an eye on my house. We lost phone, TV and internet until last evening. I lost most of a tree in my backyard and my backyard hedge is flattened a bit, but there was only minor debris to clean up. My son lost power and came over on Monday and helped me cut up the tree. I just got Internet, phone and TV back last evening. I am grateful to God for His protection.

  6. Renee

    LOVE the post! LOVE Coco! Love that Coco was blessed to have missed the devastation felt among so many others! Always looking forward to the next post!

    • What a sweet thing to say, Renee. I certainly feel blessed. I also feel so badly for the people who weren’t so fortunate. Thankfully, many are banding together to help those in need. We are a great country!

  7. Susan Coggins

    Having known Coco since 1967? 1968?, I can attest to her wonderful personality and lack of fear when challenges are presented. She is a very strong woman, talented in many ways. We were in the AF together and our husbands would be gone for long periods of time. She was so often my refuge, listener and confidante. Have always admired her.

    • Oh, Susan. I don’t know what to say. I loved Air Force life, maybe because we were all like family, and since I had been orphaned and later an only child, you all were my family. You and Bob have been special family all these years. Thank you for that.

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