Wednesday, July 17, 2024
The Idle American

The Swan at 70


Even when life’s storms rage, we Americans are privileged to seek “ports of peace” that are welcoming, even if only for a few hours. There, we re-charge to face another day, with hopes re-kindled.

We who admit to being senior adults found such joy recently on a beautiful fall afternoon in Duncanville, TX, where 500 or so folks whose average age teetered on ancient numbers gathered for an elixir of music and humor.

It was three hours young people wouldn’t sit still for, but the kind we seniors kindly give up our naps for, even yelling--okay, maybe more like gasping--for “more, more, more” before boarding conveyances “to try to get ahead of the traffic,” but didn’t.

Stealing the spotlight was a preacher-turned-comedian. Dr. Dennis Swanberg. He freely cited his age being 70, ahead of wine by a mile on the matter of getting better with age. Weaving stories of marriage, grandkids, and everyday “doings,” he’s funny without trying to be.

He stares life down from all directions, sometimes even upside down. It’s a probability that first-grade teachers, Baylor profs, and Southwestern Seminary scholars shared at least one thing in common: None knew what to do with Dennis, who mildly menaced traditional study.

So, they passed him on, thankfully to the world that so desperately needs a smile.

His “ministry of encouragement” tag describes him well, this man who spent 23 years in pastoral ministry before transitioning to an always-in-demand personality for appearances in many venues. He’s at home in churches, and in many other venues throughout the world.

Though his impersonation of “greats” like Dr. Billy Graham, John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton always are “right on,” his body language is equally impressive. He often gears down on verbiage to allow his gyrations, facial twists and squirms do the talking.

If “body language” is an apt description, Swanberg’s may be Pig Latin.

Centering on everyday experiences common to everyone, he makes us realize that we’ve been down similar roads, most marked by marriage, kids, grandkids, TV, and many other commonalities.

Who else could defend maintenance of a well-defined tummy to be vital in keeping his khaki pants spotless? He explained that with a protruding waistline, he catches food droppings landing there before they reach his pants. With an upward swoop of a Frito scoop, he not only keeps his khakis clean, but also gets one more bite.

And this: Years ago, when wife Lauree wanted to attend an Elvis concert, he suggested that she stay home to watch wiggling provided by his restless leg syndrome.

He appeared in the “shank of the day” usually avoided by most personalities.

In fact, a Southern Gospel vocal trio from Mississippi called “Paid in Full” and an expert Alabama pianist named Frank Jones were extremely well-received before Swanberg ambled to the stage.

As always, he quickly stifled whatever yawns that are predictable after a two-hour “sit.” The audience was ready, eager to “chow down” on his wonderful humor nuggets, even though DFW traffic outside was already busy, heading toward the inevitable five o’clock madness of folks heading home. And what the hey, many figured as they crowded at merchandise tables before leaving. Earlier, The Swan had reminded that if folks don’t have CD players anymore, the discs can be used as table coasters.

Dennis and Lauree now live in Granbury, much nearer the DFW Airport than their previous Louisiana home. After all, he still has 150 or so engagements yearly. This author/speaker/encourager/minister/motivator addresses some 250,000 folks annually, always “about his Father’s business.”

I ‘m glad that he’s still going “full throttle,” this man who loves what he does. He absolutely loves people, and we know it.

Like contemporaries before him--Andy Griffith, Red Skelton, Jimmy Durante, Zig Ziglar, and George Burns, to name a few--Dr. Dennis Swanberg proves at each appearance that smut isn’t needed to delight, encourage, and inspire. His cleanliness squeaks. The world needs what he brings. I 817-447-3872