Wake Up and Write Writer's Retreat Workshop
My political choices aren’t determined by a party and they never have been. They’re determined by the individuals and how I come to understand them. There was a man who came to my front door years ago with his mother. He was running for the Senate against an incumbent he was certain I wouldn’t like, and he wanted to make sure of my vote. I had a fenced-in front yard and a dog named Cassidy who was very friendly and very large. The man climbed the few steps up onto my porch to speak to me and ignored the fact that he left his mother at the foot of the steps, in perfect position for Cassidy to try to kiss her.
I kept trying to get Cassidy to leave the woman alone, and her son kept telling me she was all right. He kept urging me to agree we should vote the incumbent out, because the incumbent was from one party and we were from the other. Finally, I got Cassidy’s collar and told the man I would never vote for him. He looked shocked and asked why.
“I would never vote for a man who treats his mother the way you’ve treated yours. You let my dog jump all over her and said she was fine. If that’s how you treat your mother, how will you treat your constituents?”
He left. I like to think his mother gave him hell after they turned the corner. And no, I didn’t vote for him, and he did lose.
Last week a friend told me about the imminent death of a parent, and since then memories have bubbled to the surface about my mother’s journey through Alzheimer’s and her eventual death almost five years ago.
On this particular trip, it had been a year since I’d visited. When I arrived in Pittsburgh, it was to find a mother that was all smiles and delight at seeing me. I waited for the proverbial other shoe to drop, only it never did. Instead she laughed at all of my dad’s jokes, told me how wonderful he was, smiled all the time, and was more overtly happy than I’d ever seen her in my life.
It was one of the many ironies of Alzheimer’s, that for a brief time my mother forgot her disappointed expectations and was happy with her daughter (me) and everything around her. I remember that uncomplicated joy that emanated from her, and feel grateful she and my dad had that respite before the illness took over.
When I was in law school I did a research paper on non-profit theatre corporations. It was a great excuse to visit three Shakespeare festivals and talk to lots of actors, directors and staff. As part of the structure of the paper I compared the three Shakespeare festivals and then came up with my own ideal version of a theatre.
The conclusion of the paper surprised me at first. After examining the history of each theatre, their similarities and differences, and interviewing numerous participants about the power structure and the issues of business vs. art it was simple: what mattered most was the people. Regardless of how the various parties were organized or what the financial bottom line was, in the end, magic or disaster was created by the individuals who made up the company, their chemistry, their working relationships.
When I watch a TV show or a movie, I’m watching performances, listening to a writer, seeing the layers of complexity a great director weaves together. Friends and family are often astonished that I can remember Brian Bedford played Frank Converse’s sidekick on several episodes of the short-lived summer replacement series Coronet Blue in the late 60’s.
Or with horse racing, that I still remember Secretariat’s record time in the Kentucky Derby or the names of the four horses with which D. Wayne Lukas won six consecutive Triple Crown races (a feat never equaled before or since by any trainer – Tabasco Cat, 1994 Preakness and Belmont; Thunder Gulch, 1995 Kentucky Derby and Belmont; Timber Country, 1995 Preakness; Grindstone, 1996 Kentucky Derby), the horse (Louis Quatorze, 1996 Preakness, trained by Nick Zito) that broke that string of victories, and the D.Wayne Lukas horse that won the Triple Crown race right after that one (Editor’s Note, 1996 Belmont), giving him seven of eight Triple Crown races in that three year period.
Okay, with horse racing I remember horses as much as people. But the sport wouldn’t exist without the people. It’s why I read. It’s why I write. It’s why I get out of bed every day. I care about people. Their stories, their lives, and my connection with them.
What's influencing you and/or your work-in-progress this week?