Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Bat Signal

My mother is back safe from the hospital and Richard and I lunched with her at the hotel. Previous to her tenancy at the hotel a hospital stay, no matter how minor or routine the purpose, would result in her to looking me in the eye, wiping her brow dramatically and sighing in her throatiest voice, "That was a rough one, kid." Now, she has almost no memory of having been in the hospital but for the occasional glance at the IV bruises on her wrists.

For the Christmas dinner at the hotel a single woman with a freshly colored bouffant updo and dress-for-success duds was placed at our family table. One of the staff members whispered in my ear, "I'm sorry, but I have no place else to put her." The lady was a bit younger than my mother and her dementia seemed slightly less progressed. But she was nasty and glowered throughout the ultra gravied meal. The dining room at the hotel was packed and we were squeezed in and one of the African American (and I have no friggin' way of knowing if she was American because she didn’t open her mouth and even if she had, she could have taken an accent reduction course or have been from Canada or something. Would someone please give me permission to say BLACK?) attendants accidentally bumped our companion’s chair and the "n" word was muttered by her in an extremely loud stage whisper.

I noticed the Christmas lady, with who must have been her son, in the hotel dining room when we last visited. I couldn't make out much dialogue but their body language signaled to me that things were not that rosy between them even before dementia paid a call. During the Christmas dinner her demeanor conveyed anger and hostility. As she interacted with her son though, her face was frozen in fear and confusion. I think I have been more patient with my own mother lately. I've accepted that the old business is mine to sort through, and pre or post dementia, there was never any potential for emotional resolution or to forge that connection I have always suspected that other girls have with their mothers. There must have been times when I reached out for her and she was there for me but apparently, my mother is not the only one who suffers from memory loss.

When my mother first entered the hotel and was still missing her home and confused and angry she got me real rattled and I exploded with a shrill and tearful tirade as I drove her around her new Pasadena stomping grounds. I saw in the corner of my eye that suddenly she was terrified and I promised myself not to lose control like that again, no matter how much she infuriated me. Dementia, although it has permanently closed the door on the living mother and daughter relationship I aspired to in my mind’s eye, in its way, has been kind. My mother becomes more docile and less provocative with each visit. The angry son and mother ate Pollo Loco from Styrofoam containers a few tables away from where my mother and her doctor boyfriend hold court. It had never occurred to me to bring in food and eat it there in the dining room, while all of the other inmates were relegated to the institution's soft, bland, no sodium fare. It seemed mean, but I noticed that no one really gave a rat's ass. I hope the Christmas lady softens like my mother has and that her son accepts that for the most part, the phase of having a participatory emotional relationship with his mother, is over. The one piece of conversation I did make out was when he said to her , shaking a finger and using a particularly loud voice, "and I don’t want to have to say it again" which is sort of an unrealistic demand to make at an Alzheimer’s facility.

There are hurt feelings for things I have written here about the last children’s theatre production. I have done so much gushing here about Brod and the children’s theatre that I thought sharing my less than stellar reaction to the last production wouldn’t be all that devastating. My praise had been extravagant and consistent and loud and clear for many moons. There has never been much comment about the worship I’ve heaped on the children’s theatre so I didn’t think some criticism would necessarily be such a bad thing and perhaps I was freer in dispensing it because I believed it would go largely unnoticed. I am so friggin’ socially awkward and accustomed to feeling impotent that it always surprises me when people actually respond to or take umbrage with my opinions. I don’t think anything I said was savage and I feel rotten that it was perceived that way. I’ve been a stalwart supporter of the theatre group for years and as a member of the community I have never made it secret that I think the plays are too long and that many of the productions pose unreasonable financial and energy demands on us parents.

The inspiration for the last play was wildly imaginative and during the actual moments when the piece was true to the brilliance of its vision, it was satisfying. But it was just too big and too long and while it was gorgeous to look at, I heard very little favorable audience reaction, had trouble sitting through the whole thing myself and even though my kids’ tuition for participating was hefty, another fundraiser is being held to pay for it. I said it was a spectacular disaster and I think that as a member of the community the theatre group is purported to be, I am not only entitled to this opinion, but obliged to voice it.

Broderick is one of the smartest, wonderfully cunning, wildly imaginative and endearingly eccentric people I know. I think I get what he was going for in the last production and bless his heart, he stood true to it. This time, the inspiration was just too grand and elaborate and it taxed our meager resources. The beautiful vision was allowed to drown out the cries of concern to scale down and trim the production. I hope he doesn’t feel less beloved by us for we know that the dreams he brings us are precious gifts but it is beyond our means, we are not worthy, to bring the more elaborate ones to fruition.

My observations about the theatre group came out of my personal explorations on the subject of failure, something I have a lot of personal expertise in. The fear of failure looms particularly fucking huge for me now as a business owner and as a parent. I type this next door to my dad’s office, which, even though it has two windows and mine only has one, remains untouched since his death nearly ten months ago. My dad had failed marriages and failed business ventures, some of which I cautioned him against sitting right next door in the office that is preferable to the one I use, and could be mine if I wanted it. Sometimes I feel small and timid and afraid to fail but then I remember my father’s funeral, which was packed to the rafters with people who truly loved him and I realize, he died a successful man. He didn’t listen to me. He fucked up and I forgive him and I still love him. In order to succeed you really need to be brave enough to fail.

My bravery has wavered this week. I have an emergency session with Leslie scheduled tomorrow which I made after two nights very shaky nights of insomnia. I am stronger today and that is because I said in words that I was afraid, and some who love me, and love me in success and failure and in upcloseness and farawayness, heeded the clarion and reached out with murmurs of comfort. I am still afraid to fail and I am awkward and graceless but I am loved. I pray that I am able to reciprocate the generosity of those who hold me stalwartly in their hearts when I am low or wrong or when I love them but not their plays.

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