A cockeyed optimism . . . Mary and Kelli and Happy Days . . .

(I wrote and posted a version of this last night, but realized I’d more to say. So, updated and further explored my burst of cockeyed optimism. Love and Light, dears. Love and Light. 3/5/15 11a.m.)

True confessions: it’s coming up on the date of my aunt’s death. I am working diligently to remember all the joy she brought to me, but, I’m not terribly good at this. Joy was not a skill much valued nor encouraged in my upbringing, which was a journey peopled by those who were well-intentioned but barely able to cope, prone to disappearing for months on end into bedrooms, silences and sorrows, screams, and terrifying mood swings marked by violence, after which they would tearfully apologize, make excuses for themselves which often included an element of blaming me, and, too, there would be long nights in my bed during which they would tell me their sad stories and problems. I was, early on, the family counselor. That family — my family, we considered ourselves survivors of something tragic — built a life around the loss and mythologizing of my father. I learned — first at seventeen months when daddy stopped coming home, and ever after, when we never talked about how or why he had stopped coming home — we were somehow wounded, somehow missing something. Somehow not. Not like the others. Not enough. Not. And because we were not, we wore the badge of OTHER, and I wore it best. And because we were OTHER, any love, no matter how meager or twisted, was more love than we deserved. Everyone would, finally, leave us. Everyone, everyone would, would stop coming home. And that was because we were NOT.

Now, five decades of exploring — religions, theatre, saving others, therapy, drugging, singing, drinking, writing, sexing, loving, running away, hiding, reading, trying, and my new therapy and obsession: Twitter — haven’t quite undone the damage my father did by driving into that telephone pole, and all the echoes.

But, today, I was able to spend time with my Mom. I made her laugh. I made her smile. I did what she wanted and needed to be done. At one point, during lunch, from my place beside her, I was rubbing her back from shoulder to lower, using mild-pressure stroking (I trained in massage therapy along the way, too) and she said to me, “Oh Charlie, that feels so good.”

I realized how seldom she gets to experience touch. We all kiss and hug whenever we part, but sustained touch? How long has it been since she (and I) have been touched? Stroked. Made to feel as if we exist, are tactile, present, seen, acknowledged, sentient beings? I promised myself I would make sure to do this for her more often. Such a simple, easy thing to do for someone you love. Touch them. I do, now and then, hold her hand. I do, often, in the car, put my hand on her knee. I try, with touch, to say what I can’t always manage to say with words, words she can’t take. She refuses compliments. She insists she has failed me. Us. Life. That there were too many things she couldn’t or didn’t do.

I thought so too — once upon a time — of her. And, still, now, of me. And about her; I was wrong. She did all she could.  And, to have managed, to have survived the loss of both parents by age sixteen, an alcoholic husband who left her with five and 7/9ths children at his death, to have married another man she eventually discovered she didn’t even like, yes, surviving all that and the six children — each of us demanding and crazy and difficult in our own ways — was a miracle.  I did not recognize until I reached my forties what a gargantuan effort she must have made to just function every day. I did not realize until every one of my days became a gargantuan effort.

So, this isn’t about forgiveness. There is nothing to forgive. It’s about seeing.

And I wonder now, those out there who I am still self-centered and blind enough to believe NEED my forgiveness, and, too, those who think I’ve done things that require of them forgiveness, whether one day we won’t better see how hard we all tried, how we did the best we could with what we had and knew, the gargantuan efforts each of us made. Every day.

A cockeyed kind of optimism, perhaps, but a better joy than I have lately been managing. So, good on me.

And, tonight, I had a good time at the gym. I was able to increase the weights on a number of machines and my shoulder didn’t pop out. My elbows and knees are not aching. I did 90 minutes of cardio. And a really, really nice looking, tattooed, young guy came on to me in the showers. Win. Then, Empire was on. Then I read that one of my favorite writers won a much deserved award. Then I found out I’m seeing Wes Taylor in Cabaret at Signature not once, but TWICE! And another of my favorite writers and Twitter pals sent me a lovely message and told me my opinion was of value to him. So, good times. And, because my aunt loved Mary Martin (and passed that love on to me), and because good times, and because I am determined, and because it can be taken so many ways what with how twisted is my joy and the whole naked man in the shower thing — A Cockeyed Optimist. Twice.

First, the original and the best. Mary Martin. Because, well, MARY MARTIN.

Then, because I really enjoyed her take on Nellie and because I love her voice and because — just like I didn’t understand why it took so long for Julianne Moore to win an Oscar, I don’t understand how Kelli O’Hara has not won a Tony.

I WISH I had a video of my production of South Pacific. My Nellie, Anne Davis, amazing. Glorious. But, I have my memories. And ever evolving ways of seeing things.

Goodnight, friends.

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