thursday, october 20

Thursday morning, in the wee hours, I checked the Salisbury Post website on my phone and read the newly posted review of my play, Poochie.

It was a great review, so the normal action to take, next, would have been to celebrate the good publicity by posting a link on Facebook.

But I never did share that link. Because of what was going on, it would have been most unseemly. I did peck out a quick thank you note on my phone to Ed Norvell. He had been kind enough to attend dress rehearsal the night before and then — a day later, with a last minute request and no warning — write the review.

Still wearing a suit from opening night, lying in the recliner, which I had pulled up next to my mother’s bed, I lay there, alone with her, watching her breathing get slower and slower until it stopped. It was 3am.

An hour or so later, Karen, from Hospice, told me that I had been given a gift. Such an understatement.

About 5am, I emailed something short to a few friends, and at 6am, one of them called me and asked about my mother and what she meant to me.

I said she had encouraged me, she had supported me, she had taught me, and she had inspired me. He suggested I take a minute before the show that night and share that with the audience — which I did.

I also added a little joke, saying that she was waiting on me to get a good review before she died. Whatever context we have for our lives is invented anyway — so I might as well make up something that empowers me.

Some of my dearest friends came to the show that night. The new play had opened, gotten a great review and great audience, my mother had passed away, I had worked very little and was totally broke, and I had not slept in two days.

And there they were. Great friends with smiles and hugs. And they watched my play.  It was the perfect visitation.

I never posted that review on Facebook, but something even better appeared there. Throughout that day and the next, my iPhone blinked and winked at me every few minutes as another friend posted a condolences on my wall.

Religions and cultures give us things to do at times like these. But no religion and no culture could possibly invent this. This was a completion filled with poignancy and love and luck and God and magic. Thank you.

waiting for a parent to die

A fear that looms large in our childhoods and throughout our lives.

There comes a point (around age 30?  40?  50?) when we start to feel lucky.  Our parents have beat the averages.  We’ve seen our friends go through this while our parents are still with us.  We’ve talked about mom and dad with people who have no mom and dad.

The fear eventually becomes anticipation, and then expectancy.

We’re lucky if we have time to say the things we need to say.

But what about the time after the things have been said, while the fragile consciousness slowly slips away?

And it nears — this approaching shift, this moment, when we become the orphan?  We enter a stage of exquisite, unmatched drama.  What about this time?

It’s so close, yet so far away.  The way we measure time disappears entirely.  Hours.  Days.  Weeks.  These concepts lose their meaning.

Each moment in our lives become stretched to the snapping point, while we wait for the singular moment that we know, in days to come, we’ll never forget.

If we take the time to make a pot of coffee or take a walk or go to that Christmas party or take a long, long shower — this could have been time we could have put to other use.  This could have been time spent with Mom.  This could have been the last chance to see her alive.  What about that pot of coffee?  Or that…anything…

And is time itself really that precious?  So full of choice and possibility?  Did it take this long to learn something this simple?  This basic?

Certainly this applies to death and dying and loss, whether it’s a parent or another loved one.

But the loss of a parent is the one that has other implications.  It puts down a marker.

And I wait…

Ultimate Entertainment

I like drama okay.  I love humor.  My favorite passages in books are those moments of irony — usually toward the end when you’ve lived with the characters a good while — when humor and tragedy collide.  This is what makes a masterpiece:  a work that makes us laugh, love, and cry — at the same time.

This is the best entertainment –whether it be a novel, play, show, poem, movie, or gripping news story on CNN:  the powerful story that artfully captures the bittersweet.  Throw in some incredible dancing and upbeat, familiar music, and you’ve got the makings of perfect entertainment.

Michael Jackson’s public life was the ultimate in entertainment, and his public death has allowed us to see the reel again, this time with added emotion.  The death has washed away the bad taste we had from his legal troubles (and those audacious, public buying sprees).

The performances were already mesmerizing; now they’re even better.  And — in the midst of a recession — it’s free on every cable channel (included, or course, with the cost of monthly subscription).

Is it even more poignant for those who, like me, are the same age as Michael?  Those who remember listening to a famous singing little kid while we were little kids?  It always is.

It’s the stuff from the 60’s that really makes me stop and watch: