Happy Birthday to the greatest “Ole Made Ant” who ever lived. I’m not sure why or where that spelling or name came from — it had nothing to do with me — and, in later years, when I said I found it reductive and insulting, Sissie told me that she had decided long, long ago that when someone said something that hurt her feelings, or seemed stupid or uninformed, it was HER JOB to see past the words to the Love behind them — no matter how far she had to dig to find it.
That’s where I learned to keep looking through the haystack of ignorance and hate for the needle of Love and Light. But, Sissie, man this haystack is HUGE!!
I’ve been talking to Sissie a lot lately. I can’t seem to get the novel I wrote in her memory and because she always insisted I was a writer — loved by anyone. Well, not true. It’s been loved, just not by anyone who wants to rep it. It does well with professors of literature, LOL, but, not the point at the moment. Being unable to get that story out seems more and more my story.
Sissie would have wanted a very different life for me. She, in fact, told me that she wanted a different life for me. She made me promise I’d spend birthdays at the Algonquin, not wait until it was too late, like she had. I did. She made me promise that I would not spend my life bending myself out of shape to hold other people up. I didn’t know what she meant until it was too late.
I wish that I had asked Sissie how she managed to be “alone” for eight decades. She, like me, was deeply loved — by me, anyway, and some others — and she, like me, filled in for others in places where cushioning was required, and took care of, and made cakes, and cleaned up, and did some saving — but, there was never that kind of love. And she took on the “ole made ant” label herself, like I have taken “crazy uncle potty-mouth in the basement” for myself.
But, in her head (and with me) she was Edna St. Vincent Millay, much-loved and a sophisticate, a Bohemian, a woman who ought to have lived at the Algonquin. I wish I had asked how it felt to reach forties, fifties, sixties and be plagued by doubt (like mine) and fear/wonder/realize, “Oh, well damn, I wasn’t. I’m not.”
I hope — holy mother of all that is holy — I HOPE I managed to let her know I always did (and still do) believe she was my own Algonquin miracle, better than Millay, and that the world she gave me — let’s call it Libertytown — when it was the two of us together in our society of the heart/mind — was just as round a table as the Algonquin, and it has always been that world that kept me going when I wanted to stop — the belief in me, in possibility, her gift to me. But she’s gone, and most of it is gone, and man, the table at which I am now seated in my head/heart is not only not round, not only am I not Algonquin material, I am just a sad, old, failed, rotten, wasted my life thing, ready to go.
I’ll go see her today. In Libertytown. And ask her — though I no longer believe anyone can hear me — to please help me deal with how alone I am, have always been, how sad I am, and why it is I have made such horrid mistakes in loving and trusting and believing in people I invited to my Round Table, and how it is some of them could have been so incredibly cruel to me.
Happy Birthday, Sissie. I wish you were still here — even though you were ready to go — because that’s how selfish I am. Happy Birthday, Sissie. I wish I believed in some afterlife where we would be together again. Happy Birthday, Sissie. I wish you could teach me how not to be lonely — or, I wish — if this is how you felt — I had done a better job, more, to make you feel you were not so alone.
Love. Light. Missing. Wish I was with you. Truly. Really. Right now.