His father announced to the table that he brought the boombox.

“No, Dad,” said Gerry. “If you do . . .”

Gerry was my best friend, and we were at the rehearsal dinner for his wedding at The Village Hotel restaurant. The establishment was known for its wide-open views of Stony Brook Harbor, a beautiful tidal wetland lined by cordgrass and salt hay, the main attraction—really, the only attraction of this rickety building—but since it was late into the evening on December 31st, the sun had set several hours beforehand and the night hid the view. We could’ve been at any other dining hall in any other hotel, cheap or expensive.

Gerry had excitedly explained to me that he and Vicki needed to get married on January 1st, 2011. Then their wedding date would be 1-1-11.

November 11th immediately came to my mind, but I didn’t say anything.

“It’s nine o’clock and nobody’s dancing,” the father said, this time turning to the uncle or great-uncle or great-great uncle that sat on his left. His comment had no effect on the aging gentleman’s placid, scrunchy face, so he turned to me. “I guarantee that ten . . . twelve couples will be happily dancing when I put on my tape!”

I thought it sounded like a great idea and I nodded vigorously. Selecting the music for a room of a hundred or so people took some courage and I admired his attitude. He looked to be healthy and agile for his age, and I imagined his good posture came from years of ballroom dance lessons.

“What do you call a rehearsal dinner that has no dancing?” he asked to the entire table, clearly annoyed. His question didn’t sound right to me since I had never heard of a rehearsal dinner with dancing.

“I don’t know,” said Vicki, his soon-to-be daughter, humoring her soon-to-be father-in-law.  “What do you call it?”

“It’s not that kind of joke,” he said dismissively. “Not all jokes are funny.”

The conversation died and the waiters came out with our salads and I assumed he had given up on the dancing, but I was wrong.

At some point in between the pasta and the main course, the opening metallic percussion hits of Men at Work’s “Down Under” sounded out meagerly from the far corner and I turned to see Gerry’s dad in between some tables, flailing his arms and bouncing about, completely engaged in his dancing. None of us had noticed as he had snuck away, bringing his chair with him to set up the boombox across the room.

Immediately a few couples joined him on the makeshift dancefloor.

Vicki stormed back from visiting guests at the other tables and plopped down next to Gerry. I hadn’t known her for that long, but this was still the first time I had ever seen so much makeup caked on her face. “It’s Thanksgiving all over again,” she said. It looked like she was going to cry. Or maybe explode.

Gerry took a deep breath and explained it to me. “Every Thanksgiving for the last, I don’t know, twenty years, he’s played this tape. Everyone in the family knows it by heart and we all hate it. We beg him to not play it, but he never listens.” He took a sip of his water and studied his father, hopping up and down like a jackhammer. “It’s like a compulsion.”

About ten or so couples were up and slow dancing to Mr. Mister’s “Broken Wings.”

I had to give the old man credit. His bold prediction was accurate.

“I hate this,” Vicki said. “It’s so embarrassing.  I feel like I’m being groped.”

“It’s almost over,” Gerry responded, deadness in his gaze.  “It’s on Foreigner.  When it gets to Foreigner it’s almost over.”

Almost over until next Thanksgiving, I thought, but didn’t say anything.

Vicki started to cry.

“I’ve been waiting,” Lou Gramm crooned, “for a girl like you.”

She put her head in Gerry’s lap and sobbed. He stroked her hair. “It’s almost over,” he repeated. “It’s almost over.”