This piece was my second Neo Futurists audition, leading to my second Neo Futurists callback. Sure, I'm not part of the ensemble. I've been through the audition and callback process three times. The reason I mention it at all is this: the Neos insist on the truthful and personal nature of their work. I brought that every time, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to do so. I am grateful the company exists so I had a goal and a deadline to write under. I had artists to inspire me to work with them. This company exists and inspired me to keep writing. Also, they're swell people.
Looking at these pieces is good for me as a writer, and better for me as a person. They remind me of my journey and show me a time period of my life in a way that no other writing could. The reflection is pretty accurate, bereft of frills and half truths. It's just me and the time I was in, unflinchingly looking back at me now, wondering why I'm wincing.
My last round of auditions and callbacks was in May of 2011, and it was easily the most intensely personal and difficult. My audition felt like a dirty secret because I was pregnant. I was excited. I didn't want to tell them because it was early, and I would worry about the details later, right? One thing at a time and all that. The morning of my audition, I miscarried. It started an hour before my audition and continued all day. I still went in, not certain what was happening but knowing exactly what was happening. On my audition form, my answers were very different than they had been in previous rounds. "Where do you see yourself in five years?" "Writing...raising a family..." I was heartbroken, hopeful, proud of my work, and devastated by my loss. I was called back, but I just couldn't muster the same enthusiasm. One of my pieces was about losing those close to me, no matter how careful I was. My mother, this child. But I couldn't articulate it correctly. I also didn't tell them why I wrote that piece. I didn't tell them that I sang the song I used in the shower the morning of my audition, praying I wasn't losing this child. I wasn't as honest as I could have been. That showed.
Two months later, I was pregnant with Gilda. I have never been more grateful for anything in my life.
Today is my father's birthday. He would have been 74. My mother is now gone, also, but I wrote this when she was still alive. I had the callback for this piece when she lived with me after her heart attack. She watched me zip in and out the door, marvelling at my energy. Then she went to the back porch to smoke. I joined her later, and we stayed up way too late talking about it all.
So today, on my father's birthday, I revisit the piece that flowed out a bit easier six years ago. I miss him, I miss my mother, and I wish they could have met their granddaughter Gilda. Sweet Jesus, they'd have loved her to bits and pieces.
Long way around, as always: happy birthday, Dad. I love you.
We Always Had Twinkies in the House and I Didn’t Bake You a Cake
She called me to remind me. I always know in the days leading up to it, but never on the day. It's like there's some strange veil over my memory and nothing will trigger it until she calls me.
I try to tell my friends that remembering their birthdays is hopeless for me. I don't want them to get angry, but I can't blame them. Who remembers lyrics to the theme song on a short lived Ann Jillian sitcom and not the birthday of their closest friends? Me, that's who. My commemorative priorities seem pretty out of whack.
But as soon as she calls – calls back, even, after I just spoke to her – and says, "Do you know what today is?" I can say yes and mean it. Because I hear it in her voice, in her low and gravelly voice that can put a twinge of sadness on even the happiest things. Not just because she sounds so sick, but because it's so low and grave. And when her heart is heavy remembering you, remembering you would have been 68 today, mine breaks.
It doesn't break for me today, I have my own days for that. Days that really have no significance because there are so many at this time of year, I need a break. I'll grieve in the spring when there's nothing to remember. My heart breaks today for her. Because she lost her best friend. Her husband. The father of her children. The man who loved her. The man she helped and covered for and tried to heal. The man who may not have made it to 68 even if he didn't take his own life.
But on this day, when we grieve and when my heart breaks for her when she calls, we pretend you would have made it. We talk about how we miss you, and how fall is the best and worst season. She tells me life goes on, and that she can see it in my nieces. They're beautiful and smart and you'd love them to pieces. They hear about you. About your infamous Birthday Weeks and your charm and your humor. Your smile, even if it was as rare as green leaves come that November.
So happy birthday. Happy Birthday Week to you. I love you. I miss you.
But I'll grieve in the spring when there's nothing to remember.