Monday, January 31, 2011

Everything Old is New Again

Back in the day - WAY back - I was quite into dream interpretation. It was 1980. I was healing. I was an avid student of C. Jung, psychiatrist extraordinnaire. Now HIS dream interpretation, unlike, say Freud's or Aesop's - mostly Freud's, utilized free association of dream images. BUT. Whereas Freud would say, "Rocking chair - grandmother - old age - weakness - impotence" (as I recall ALL of Freud's 'associations ultimately landed in the gonadal lap, so to speak), Jung would say, "Rocking chair - JFK - back pain - comfort -persistence". So, this evening, having left myself but a parsimonious amount of time and energy to write, I went thumbing through old journals in a desultory fashion, hungry for inspiration - and pasta, for some reason. So engaged, I stumbled upon a stack of cheap leather (and thus externally cracked) "Dream Journals" circa 1978-1982. What ho! Just WHAT were the issues, the burning quests for understanding and, therefore improving that model of ME at that time. Pay dirt, folks. You know I have promised at least a serious glance into this writer's persona and, albeit dusty, what I'm about to share - just a taste - is as valid today as it was when written - with that quill.
The mechanics were simple. One kept a journal and pen bedside and whenever Orpheus skipped out - even if only for a sip of nectar - one hastily put bedside light on and madly scribbled any and all recollections of dreams thusly interrupted, whether whole or in obvious fragment modality. Then, at some point the following day, one would read this drivel and - without dwelling on motive - underline words that had some 'pop', 'vibe', or as Jung would say numinosity, to them. Now the keys were in your hand. These were the words with which one used the 'free-association' exercise on, stopping when one just knew to stop - the "aha experience". Put them all together, re-arrange, interpret and voila, you have what your subconscious is REALLY screaming at you. Ready? Comfy? I give you Friday, October 11, 1980 - "A day in the life of. . . ."
DREAM: I am in a car which is being driven by C. L. or some other person who has died. She goes past cemeteries. I think 'how odd' as I would think she would try to forget. Then there are scarves - many brilliantly-colored silk scarves. She is trying to arrange them to tell a story. At first I try to help but then I'm propelling myself ahead, full-force, doing something with these scarves, getting ready to die.
  • I have watched the large tree shed the leaves that have died this year as I do every year;
  • I am haunted by memories of those whom I knew and/or loved who have died;
  • I don't really know whether those who have died really know me anymore;
  • My life changed since my grandfather died when I was 6;
  • I thought I died a little bit with each of my patients but perhaps I just intensified my fear of the reality of mortality;
  • I wonder if anyone who has died ever talks to me;
  • I think I would fear meeting or experiencing anyone who had died.

  • I hate cemeteries;
  • I don't see anything to be gained from visiting family graves or cemeteries;
  • Cemeteries make me feel very cold and damp;
  • I sometimes feel I hear the collective wailing of the trapped souls trying to push back the earth and get out when I pass cemeteries;
  • I told my mother I would not visit her in the cemetery.
  • My mother is not in the cemetery;
  • Three years before their respective deaths, my mother and her brother, Paul, got stuck while driving through a cemetery. (Must have made Uncle P a tad nervous as he was also a member of The Family.)

  • I get lots of odd feelings which tend to disorient me from my present reality;
  • I like odd combinations of color, furniture, people;
  • I often feel someone else's behavior is odd when no one else does'
  • I really enjoy people who have odd ways of doing things;
  • I have a preference for odd over even numbers;(always bet the 3-1-9 combo @ the track)
  • My mother died on an odd-numbered day, in an odd-numbered month, of an odd-numbered year;
  • I often think it odd that I ever married and have 3 children;
  • I have an odd preoccupation with the passage of time;
  • My husband used to say I was odd. Now he says I'm special.

  • I feel I have forgotten at least 80% of everything I have ever studied or read;
  • I forget people's names very easily;
  • I never forget a face;
  • I want to forget the major portion of my childhood;
  • There are some very uncomfortable days in my life that I am unable to forget and which get no less traumatic with review;
  • I almost always forget to call people back when I say that I will;
  • I try not to forget people's birthdays but mine is remembered by only a few and that hurts;

  • My mother had a large collection of and loved to wear scarves;
  • Scarves are very flattering and show a classy attention to detail - and hide premature wrinkles on the neck;
  • My favorite childhood cowboy heroes wore scarves;
  • Scarves make me recall my wonderful year of living on the Upper East side with Ellen and borrowing from her silk 'Italian' Collection;
  • I was quite shaken to read of how Isadora Duncan strangled herself accidentally while riding, standing up in an open roadster.

  • Noel Coward, Oscar Wilde, Alexander Woolcott and Fran Lieberman wrote brilliantly;
  • I want to write brilliantly and give hours of joy;
  • I would never be able to argue/debate brilliantly because my emotions and mask get in the way;
  • I have a brilliant in law whom I detest for his lack of sensitivity, humor and finesse;
  • Sometimes when I am running, the sun shines on the road and environs so brilliantly as to make life almost understandable to me;
  • I should like to move through life facilely, if not brilliantly.

  • Silk makes me think of China and China makes me uncomfortable;
  • I hate silk-screened clothing;
  • I always thought whores and burlesque queens wore silk;
  • My skin is no longer, by ANY stretch, as smooth as silk;
  • I perspire and wrinkle too sloppily to wear good silk with any ease and panache;
  • Silk is not the only thing standing between me and panache.

  • Someday, my life experiences might be a useful reading experience for others;
  • I was never able to make up stories to tell my children;
  • I almost always embellish a story when I am recounting it, sometimes to the point of distortion;
  • I must feel that the true 'story' of life needs my help to 'liven' it up;
  • I enjoy becoming the characters when I am reading my children a story;
  • I often miss the 'intended point' of a story even though I enjoy it a great deal;
  • I have not learned to sit quietly and really honestly listen to the story of another;
  • I am not able to sit quietly enough to listen to my own story.

  • I have had very disturbing experiences which involve the feeling of being propelled (physically) at very great speeds;
  • As a child, the rapid, propelling motions of rides at amusement parks were among my greatest thrills;
  • I am often fatigued lately from the effort of propelling myself through this experience of living 'creatively';
  • The propelling forces which seem responsible for my psychic growth are elusive, cyclical and can never be summoned at will.

  • I am getting ready for a major change in my life;
  • I knew I was getting ready for something that would require an intense increase in physical strength long before I even suspected that I was to have another child;
  • Getting ready for changes, in seasons, for example, or events like holidays or parties, has become almost a compulsion for me lately, whereas it never consciously mattered that much before;
  • Getting ready is exhausting - and often annoying.

Tomorrow will fill in the analytical blanks of this olio of associations as I conclude this segment on the "Making of a Magician." But, to be sure, it was big decision time for Lorane at the ole gut level and we were not amused. This whole business was a pain in the ass and neck and head. But I could not live with "Her Weakness" any longer. She was just going to have to speak to herself (me) of what REALLY hurts and if we can't cure it, perhaps we can alleviate the symptoms such that progress need not be aborted. I was already feeling like an incomplete deck but the cards were out there. It was the dealing that was painfully slow. But. I WAS the dealer; I HAD the cards and it was MY move. Did I have to have the Royal Flush or should I go for the not-so-flashy but solid Full House? Gotta have the Full House. Gotta get goin'. Gotta quit shittin' cause I'm losin' weight! Later, L. . . .

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Quick! Get an ax. There's a fly on godson's mustache.

It's Sunday - again. This one is Pro Bowl Sunday (except in Egypt, I guess. Don't think they can get it). But in the US of A, it's also prelude to "Superbowl Sunday". You remember. The one the STEELERS are going to? You most assuredly remember Eileen (Please see, January 23, 2011," And so it goes and nobody knows. . . .") and maybe even the fact that she raised four wonderful sons.
What I don't remember sharing with you (now is that phrase a neurotically-loaded, fuzzy wuzzy American-ism or what?) is that her #3 is my godson, Brennan. And a more loving, funny, talented, bright and good-looking godson no godmother could wish for. (or end a sentence with or at). Did I remember to mention good-looking? Oh, yes. It's "bright" that is giving me pause today. Just a 'hiccup', but pause nevertheless. You see, it has come to my attention - and that of the public-at-large on Facebook - that son #3, having sat on his mother's knee and - much, much later - at her side (that would be the "STEELERS' side, of course) has - in what this godmother must assume to be an unguarded, un-intended, demonic moment of reckless abandon - that our Brennan has been dogging Mom's team. This at the very moment that their need for support, prayers, dedicated and enthusiastic praise and the very best of wishes could not be stronger! Most unfortunately - and in the interest of truth, fairness and accuracy, please scotch any rumors, inferences, even references that might cast even a soupcon of doubt on Brennan's unquestioned intelligence - he has elected to utilize, mutilate, and spotlight the STEELERS' quarterback as the vehicle for this uncharacteristically venomous attack on a TEAM. That, dear reader, is what the rooting, shouting, face-painting, all-American passion is ALL about on Superbowl Sunday - a TEAM. Ever hear "Go, trainer (water boy, chains carriers, time keeper, or some such), Go!" booming from the stands or day-glo-painted on 10 foot square placards held up by a dozen or so VERY strog people? Silly, yes? YES! We cheer for our TEAM.
Soooo, godson, dear. Be a good #3 and the loving son and godson that we all (us, the fam, our "TEAM") know you are, slap yourself 'up-the-side' of your good-looking head AND FLY RIGHT, BOY!
Love, Auntie L. . . .

Friday, January 28, 2011


TOTALLY forgot, last evening - big day and all - to reassure you re: Mia's tonsils. I had to labor over the accompanying illustration and 'doctor' it a bit, but, as you can see, 'Poppy' Jitters got them out - had his own "Kit" - and obviously just in the proverbial nick, as they say. Just look at the size of those puppies!
(We kept it small - the surgery. Just the fam, on the street. But you can see the relieved glow in Julie's eyes! Then we ALL shared an ice cream cone. Margie treated. So THAT "sleeve of care" is knitting well. Figured you'd want to know. Later, L. . . .)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Of Human Bandage

As much fun as we were all having just ambling along, processing the acquaintance phase of this - it is hoped - shared life experiece, something has happened which unfortunately has the effect of, oh, let's just call it "progress interruptus" or simply "TODAY", if you prefer. Of course the fact that today,ie, 01/27/2011, was going to 'happen' did not escape me yesterday (not much gets by this been-living-a-while bundle of 'anima-draped' acuity). But, as so often happens in my world, today was frought with happenings - some anticipated - that set off one of those free-association chains that culminate in feelings of frustration, aggravation, anger even.
(And the fact that the TV is on at a barely-audible-volume setting and that inane spot for a formerly-enjoyed chocolate-covered candy is being aired is just intensifying my aura of negativity. I mean, having to endure repeated, different frames of grown people grinning like mentally challenged chimps after LOUDLY biting into and open-mouthedly chomping on a morsel REALLY GRATES, ya know? It's rude, crude, defamates the image of this previously enjoyed sweet snack, for THIS former fan for one, and sets an offensively poor example for our already endangered children.)
Today, my sister-in-law, who suffered severe optic nerve damage at birth, was to have a cataract, now occluding the pupil causing total loss of vision, removed. Tricky business as this is not your ordinary cornea. No. Her corneas constantly move - up & down; side to side -a condition called nystagmus which presents quite a challenge to the surgeon who would dare to swipe a blade across this rapidly-moving target and claim it as "cataract, OD" before dropping it into a specimen container. But such was our mission this morning and, armed with drops, rosary beads, more than a soupcon of guarded anticipation, my husband and I ferried Margaret to the hospital Outpatient Surgery facility. Paper work completed, we took our seats in the dreaded "Family Waiting Area" - with Margaret , star family member today who was most anxious to become a patient. Her brother, my "Dear and Glorious Physician" husband, has never acquired 'patience' - just the important feelings - and I took refuge at the computer to update the children. Eve, the relator, communicator, began with the youngest, Jennie, mother of Emma -3 - and Charlie -7 mos., 22 lbs, happiest of cherubs, victim of what is becoming a debilitating respiratory condition - because she's had a bad week. Charlie back to doc Monday; pulmonologist talking about possible bronchoscopy next week and death of husband's best friend. Emailed her @ work that surgery would be soon; would text updates & requested she pass it on to bro. I would contact daughter Julie via text as she was in an OR in Richmond assisting a cardiac surgeon as he ablated a patient's life-threatening heart rate & surgeons can get cranky when nursie takes calls from Mommie whilst he plays God. Which got me thinking about Julie's "bad month" with Mia - 3 - and her Strep throat infections. Guess that's about when 'today' morphed into "TODAY".)
And before you could recite - in Russian, backwards - the names of the Royal Romanoff Brood, they called Margie's name. She gathered herself, her cain, beads, hopes, wildly-dancing corneas and hopes and in a split month, proudly, independently groped her way to the patiently-waiting pre-op nurse. Dr. Jitters went to the computer to research a stumper in the crossword puzzle he'd been working on, "Yellowstone Park monster", then skittered out for a walk around the parking lot. You must appreciate that it was now noon and the patient was not even 'prepped' for her 9:30 surgery and Dr. Jitters was due to report to the Emergency Department in a neighboring city whence he would be charged with saving lives from 2 PM until 10 PM. No pressure. Of course they called for the family during his ambulation so I went back to keep her company. FINALLY, after pep talks & tears with her dear lady surgeon; robotic questions and impersonal routine recordings by the anesthesiologist and a "we're giving you some 'happy juice' in your IV now, Margaret", she seemed on her way. In the interest of levity - feelings rule - I said, "no dirty jokes, now, Marg." to which happy-juiced Ms. M shared with OR nurse, "I could just smack that one." Right. Guess not everyone gets HAPPY on ye ole juice. I then went out to find Jitters so I could take him home in time to jump in his mid-life crisis 'electric blueberry' - Mazda Miata, 6 gears, royal blue, limited edition - and barrel off to 'bells and whistles' HQ.
(This thing with Mia has had me in a rage. Sometime late summer - when she began Day School - she also began getting quite sick with Strep throat infections. Temps of 104+, NO sleeping, decreasing appetite and - ultimately - a 10 lb. weight loss. She'd had seven such infections. "Why are they not removing her tonsils?" asks Mom. "BeCAUSE, you have to have eight documented Strep infections before the pediatrician can give you an ENT referral, Mom!", ouched Julie. "Well, they're clearly NOT working," pleads Mom. "I KNOW that, Mom. It's the insurance company's rule," spits Julie, R. N. Soooo, when Mia had to be admitted to the hospital two weeks ago with viral pneumonia and severe dehydration, GiGi - Mia can't say the hard 'g' in grams. Calls me GiGi - BSN, JD, plaintiff med/mal atty begins - silently, privately, at the obvious direction of 'animus'/masculine attribute - to compose a "COMPLAINT" - just for yuks.)
I returned to the hospital JUST in time to catch our 'Miracle Worker', Dr. Annette, dashing to her car. "Surgery was a piece of cake. Put her under, paralyzed the nerve that controls the muscle that make her cornea move, removed cataract, put in implant and she's HUNGRY! So get her some lunch & then to see me in the office." Margaret was thrilled. No pain. Starving. Moving guardedly - & Jitters had me call son Philip who volunteered to drop everything and meet us at our house to escort her into her room safely and without hitting the proverbial deck with recently-disc-fused Mom. Annette also noted that Margie has significant astigmatism which was NEVER addressed in her spectacle prescription. Soooo, if the cataract surgery works and the astigmatism is corrected, she will SEE the SuperBowl for the first time! God is good.
(And this 8 documented-infections-with-Strep-causing-temps-high-enough-to cause seizures is CRIMINAL. Surely, dear reader - if you put yourself in a "There but for the grace of God-mode" - you'll agree. Out Patient Surgery; drive-by deliveries; NO surgery, unless. What's next? Will your hardware store start selling "Do-It-Yourself Kits" - Adenoids to Valves? PULEEEZ!)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Rocking the Roles

I guess this is something of a cheat but it IS a snapshot of your writer using a piece she wrote about other women whose beliefs she shares. It wasn't written recently but could hold up as "current events" tomorrow.

(I wish I had the energy and had remembered to send a memo to the creative muses so that I could share a blithe little fairy tale focused on me that would as personal & on target as the previous trip to Devonshire. Actually, there will be childhood recollections shared - you deserve to have SOME insight into the enchoate development of this now all-grown-up & twisted psyche but, alas, Brooklyn holds none of the charm of Laddie-Buck's 'hood.)

So here we go. In the beginning, women did not picnic around the Tree of Knowledge. Rather there was much tarrying around the hearth fire and birthing chair (tripod-shaped, did you know?) where her inventiveness & creativity were best applied. Advances in technology, birth control savvy and the "blue stocking" revolution left woman with some free time on her hands and a fair amount of 'masculine spirit' - aggression, productivity, need to amass 'things', etc. - psychologically & biologically available as is the norm. (At conception, the genes line up and determine 'gender' by pure numbers.) And the question became: What to do with all of these 'qualities', Eve?

Some women opted to have another baby & bake bread. Others shook the Tree and feasted. Today, many women choose careers that demand objectivity, impersonality, rationality, focus. All of which are not 'natural' feminine attributes. Women have proved themselves to be fine educators, administrators, leaders, artists, police officers, fire fighters and soldiers. (Gosh. At second blush - confine to lateral upper, cheekbones, please - that kinda sounds like ubiquitous "MOM". Hmmm. . .) However, there are two built-in dangers in this reality - over-valuation of the masculine and under-evaluation of the feminine. Balance - that elusive juggling act - is what society must seek.
A woman working in a traditionally 'male-dominated' profession runs the greatest risk of sacrificing her femininity. Where competition, precision and stress are the daily diet, she may barely have time to nibble at beauty, nature, relationships.
(Doubtless, you're wondering, with hungry curiosity, "Wha'd SHE do? Was she a Tree-shaker or cookie-baker? Attack higher academia or hook-rug her way to county bazaar largesse?" Or not. Whatever, allow me to introduce a complex gal for whom I fashioned something of an altar.)
In the late eighties, Dr. Wendy Marshall was the Director of the Trauma Service and Professor of general Surgery at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital (a Level I Trauma Center). Trauma surgery is physically, emotionally and mentally demanding. And it was but one of her duties which included administration, teaching, coordination, research and public relations. This was one busy lady - busy doing things requiring a healthy integration of 'masculine' (Jungian term is animus) abilities.
Marshall was a pilgrim, of sorts. She was raised in England, educated inLondon and arrived on our shores at a time in her life when she was traveling and trying to decide what she wanted to be. (Vermont won her heart and medical school her mind.)
So American society was an adopted culture for her. How was she handling all of this - filling her predecessor's O.R. greens (and that oh-so-flattering little paper green cap) in a new location, a new institution, with a new team of colleagues, residents and nurses watching her every move? Well, with aplomb and gracious efficiency. She could be as cold as the blades she wielded; as unyielding as her steel retractors. She was small, slim and, particularly in those greens with sensibly attractive bobbed hair, she called Peter Pan to mind. She spoke softly, quickly. Her brown eyes held on to yours ready for laughter or tears or dwelling on some serious, important medical/surgical conundrum. The new team's consensus was that she made each member feel important, an integral part. Commenting on this assessment, Marshall says, "That's because they are. It's not just a feeling."
(Hearing echoes of pearls past? Those cast not before swine but the son who would be King - the Crown Prince whose imperative was mastering the ability to feel, relate, emote. All those Jungian 'anima' or 'soul' attributes that had to be tapped before he was crowned.)
Marshall loved her work and cared deeply about her patients. Wendy also made it 'policiy' that when she left the hospital, she took care of Wendy. "I never read a medical book when I go home. I love reading - mostly English literature because that's what we were brought up with. But there are two kinds of reading that I like: a book that is well-written and therefore fun to read - like the classics. And then, the absolute trash. You know, you get home and you're fed up after a busy day and you plop down and read this junk for two hours."
She enjoys classical music and took music appreciation classes when possible, collected Wedgewood China, bred Afghan hounds and spent as much time as possible outdoors - sailing, jogging, playing tennis and spending precious time alone with the surf and the sandpipers. She'd just bought a home and was anxious to decorate. And in ALL aspects of her life, Wendy stressed the importance of relationships - of being with, helping and understanding people. One major drawback for Wendy is not being able to spend more time with/support the families. The families who in six months will not even recall Wendy Marshall, M.D.
Does it bother her that there is little positive feedback from these patients and their families? No, because they can't help that. But there are other things that compensate, that bolster the trauma surgeon's "feelings". Marshall explains, "You see, we will make a difference. There are at least one-third of the patients who are on our service right now who would be dead were they not here." And the things that break up the unbearable represent relationship and the capacity for love. Did she think she was a more "complete" surgeon because she was a woman? "Not at all. Men have the same capacities. In fact, the two [sets of functions] it seems to me, are particularly related in medicine."
(We have traversed The House of Devonshire - a castle - and The Trauma Center - The House of Horrors - together in two short evenings. My wish for you, dear reader, is that in some small way I've been able to impart the peace and comfort that can only make such a sojourn enhancing because you are - singularly and in the collective - heart and soul. With that, please allow The Bard to ". . .knit up your ravelled sleeve of care.")

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The House of Devonshire

If, perchance, dear reader, you have opted to incorporate this blog into your daily - or even occasional - reading regimen, I thought it appropriate/mannerly to introduce some of the players on my personal stage. This evening's Playbill sketch centers on my husband of 40 years, couched, I thought aptly (& after throwing the "I Ching") in the form of allegory, restful-bedtime-story variety.

This story happens a long, long time ago, or tomorrow. It happens in and around and beyond a beautiful castle called Devonshire. (Or, if you prefer, in the home of a cardiologist in Pittsburgh, PA) This was the home of King Philip, "the King of Hearts", his lovely Queen, Margaret Cecilia and the five children of the royal family. They were called Princess Margaret Mary, who was dedicated to duty, Prince Philip, affectionately called Laddie-Buck, Princess Kathleen, a carrier of love, Princess Eileen Marie who laughed often and with wisdom and Princess Mary Ellen, who rode her thoughts, groomed her dreams.

Naturally, each member of the family has a 'story' but this one is mostly about Laddie-Buck, the Crown Prince who, as you know, may do many things and have many different attributes but is always waiting and preparing for the moment when he will be King.

The castle was well-suited to this family. It was large, warm, exquisitely designed and constructed with many, many rooms, secret passageways, hidden stairwells and landings and no fewer than four levels as well as tastefully placed turrets - harmonious yet seemingly desultory in arrangement. It rang with laughter, this castle, and flowers - inside and out. By direction of the queen, each door leading to the exterior was fenestrated with a square pane of leaded glass that featured one lovely, violet-tinced tulip. So pleased was the queen with the work of the Belgian artisan who had created these panes, she requested one be placed in each window of the castle. The tulip, you see, symbolized friendship, good tidings. And they were beautiful. Queen Margaret embraced such things and projected them as well.

The castle also truly reflected the king who was a 'large' man and warm, wise and spiritually and intellectually complex. Like the castle, he was always revealing another and another unexpected side of himself. Now the daily goings-on in the castle was left to the Queen - of course. But King Philip lent his own royal hands to the gardens, on occasion. In fact, it was he who ordered that the periphery of the grounds be lined with Lombardi Poplar trees. "So tall and graceful, they reach like vectors to the heavens," he said, "but like us, they sway and continually turn slightly off course." The King also found special time for each member of the royal brood. They were each bound to him by a different and very powerful emotion. This was an essential and very loving king in his castle.

As you might expect with ones who are great, as he was, his personal qualities drifted, then settled like a beneficent fog over his kingdom. Like some opulent millionnaire, King Philip squandered preccious coins of personality among his subjects. What made this feat even more remarkable, was the fact that King Philip ruled over a land constituted of iron and it was given to him the power to permeate this hard and cold and usually unyielding substance. He accomplished this with his special talents and influence. King Philip was thusly vitally connected to his kingdom because he tended to and knew hearts. He touched and moved the people in this iron land by maintaining the very rhythm of their life source, the pump of their passions.

Many wondered what the core of his power and virtuosity was. Indeed, there was much speculation surrounding the life and deeds of this extraordinary king. "How is it our King seems always to have time for us?" "What manner of sovreign travels long distances after the sun has been bedded to calm one lowly, quaking peasant?" Philip, aware of their needs -and their gratitude - never counted his hours or questioned his energies. He hadn't the time. He also had a very special secret. And, we shall see how the relationship between his secret and his energy came to mold this story and the many lives it touches.

Now Laddie-Buck was acute, keenly aware of the King and in absolute awe of him. It was as if after each encounter with his father, the boy felt as though he had just walked across one corner of Heaven. Of course there is no helping the fact that the son of such a great one will be brushed with his many blessings. And although the boy did not realize it, Laddie-Buck was special. A dutiful, observant son, he saw how the king was always busy doing wondrous deeds, kingly deeds, and so he, too, busied himself, dedicating himself to the altar of God and of the King (and I suspect Laddie-Buck saw these as one and the same altar) in his very strenuous efforts at being the best boy, son, brother, man, prince and (Heaven save him from this last eventuality) king.

He was obedient and respectful to the Queen, attending always to his assigned chores - such as they were around the castle. He was kind and loving to his sisters, although he would never freely confess to anything beyond an imposed comaradery with them. But the King knew that it was Laddie-Buck, a sedulous and successful student, who read to Princess Margaret - whoe sight was congenitally impaired - late at night. and being something of an accomplished carpenter, it was this same brother who built houses for dolls and birds when Princesses Kathleen and Eileen prevailed upon him. Mind you, though, not ALL of his endeavors met with royal approval!

Once, the Queen recalled, she heard a muffled and disturbing olio of sounds coming from the children's wing. As she reached the landing, Princess Margaret's, "Mother's coming!" caused a precipitous but ineffectual hush of the noise. Upon entering the room, the Queen was met with the saddest of family portraits. Six year-old Princess Mary Ellen was perched atop a table, her eyes wet and her mouth bleeding. The other girls werecrying. Laddie-Buck, dry-eyed, stepped forward and solemnly allowed as how he had just extracted the little princess' top two teeth. It seemed she had had no coins with which to purchase a birthday present for the Queen. She refused to borrow or accept coins from her siblings but Laddie-Buck convinced her that coins from the Tooth Fairy were very much one's own. The teeth had been loose, Princess Mary Ellen was very grateful to her brother, and the Queen, although deeply moved, spoke to Laddie-Buck about taking too many matters into his young fingers.

Despite his involvement with his sisters, the young man much preferred to spend time with his dog, Serph and his 'oy' friends. He was happiest in the world of boys and became a skillful and player and worker at the things of young men. The King very much enjoyed watching his son play at ball games and tournaments. Laddie-Buck was twice-thrilled because he was pleasing his father while doing what he liked best. But his incentive went beyond his admiration for his father, For Laddie-Buck felt he had two obstacles to overcome. One was his size. You see swift and adroit as he was, Ladddie-Buck was short and slight although surprizingly strong and daring. The other problem (in his mind) was the King's frequent abscences. This left the prince in the constant company of the Queen and Princesses, a lamentable fact for him because he wanted to do the things of the man - lest he become more "Lady-Buck-like".

King Philip was present enough to notice that his boy was approaching adolescence having shown signs throughout his boyhood of being a fine scholar and - more importantly to Laddie-Buck - a naturally gifted and accomplished athlete. This was good. But there were other signs, observed with equal attention, about which the King was troubled. These signs seemed related not to actions, but to re-actions.

For example, Laddie-Buck's nose had been broken (three times) whilst playing ball. The King witnessed none of the accidents but received glowing reports about his son's demeanor: "King Philip. You can be most proud. Your lad never even winced during the bone-setting." And from the Queen, "He was so brave, dear. Absolutely no fussing.". And finally, "I didn't cry, Dad." The King was thoughtful.

Then, just before the Prince turned thirteen, Serph contracted an incurable and most debilitating fungus. The dog was miserable and had to be put to sleep. Laddie-Buck went with his father to deliver Serph to his executionors. He bid his friend a warm and gentle but tearful farewell. The King observed, "I know how you must feel, son. I cried when my boyhood pet died." "I'm a man, now, Father. Men don't cry." "You may be wrong there. I know Kings do." And so the boy prayed that night, "Dear God. I can't stand not having Serph but I know You needed him more. And I guess You know he likes honey, sometimes, and to play ball. An in case You made a mistake, I'm here every day after school."

In time, Laddie-Buck asked that the fourth level of the castle be prepared for him and made his personal quarters. This not only set him apart but made him more accessible to the gods - and less to his sisters, he reasoned. The King looked on. He was pleased. He approved. But keeping his secret ALWAYS before him, Philip knew it was time to test Laddie-Buck in some important matters of maturational and spiritual strength. Now, to do this, the King chose the avenue closest to Laddie-Buck's heart - sports. The young prince had consistently avoided one particular activity and was so pleased with himself and his achievements in all others, that he was a bit put out when the King suggested, "Laddie-Buck, why don't you go out for running? Cross-Kingdom if you don't think you're fast enough for sprints. I think it would be an excellent sport for you."

And, as was the nature of the Crown Prince, he bucked. He told the king that running wasn't even a 'sport', was no challenge, he hadn't the time or inclination for it and built his little case up and up whenever his father would discuss it. Now the King knew that it is very common for a boy to go through a period of figuratively 'throwing rocks' at his father. And further, it is the wise father who just ignores it. The boy is having to to let his boyhood die and he is angry and he throws rocks. "If his behavior is ignored," Philip confided to the Queen, "he vents his spleen, so to speak, and can then move on, his grief work done."

Of course, this was a very special, royal relationship, so you can be sure that Laddie-Buck's display of resistance was more along the lines of pitching pebbles than throwing rocks. It simply isn't done. But he made himself heard nonetheless. Philip watched as his son put away the things of the boy and readying to suffer into manhood. The King therefore kept after him. "WHY don't you want to run? Don't you think you can do it?", and so on. After many such proddings, when the time which was SO very right had come, he simply said, "I spoke with the coach. You're to be at practice tomorrow morning."

Laddie-Buck took the challenge - resentfully at first. He preferred team efforts. Running was a waste of time. You run alone. He felt pressured, hostile when running. He tried concentrating on math equations. He tried memorizing poetry. He practiced Latin declentions. But he tried hard and consistently and in a short time he was doing so well he knew, deep down somewhere, that his father had been right. The rhythm of running, to which he had never consciously attended before, was now putting him in touch with feelings he never knew he had before. In fact, for the son of the King of Hearts, whose entree to his kingdom was the life-giving, rhythmic beating of an organ so closely associated with emotion, Laddie-Buck hadn't done much feeling at all. Not until now. His legs, like his heart, pumped his feelings into his awareness. He was angry, proud, nauseated to the point of illness, exhilirated, sad. He laughed. And now King Philip could make ready to pass his crown, to reveal his secret, a little bit at a time.

You see, the reason for the tremendous energy of King Philip, the dynamic that made him the best at what he did, was that he had been given a weak heart - which was now finally failing. His wisdom had been spawned from this ironic knowledge. And because of it, he intuitively and intensely valued relationships, productivity, spirituality - all the things that touch and in-spire a wonderful castle and kindom and make them good and well. King Philip lived most fully and was there for himself, his family and his subjects because he lived with his death before his eyes, his love and strength always available to those who would see and use it. He gave it freely to those who could not.

And sensing that it was time to leave, he had to first be certain that Laddie-Buck could use the value of dying to one thing only to blossom and flourish into the next. The Crown Prince, it is hoped, will be able to give to himself - and then to his kingdom - all that has been passed on to and into him. Laddie-Buck used his tools well. He wasted no time. He was beginning to feel and respond to feelings. The King saw this as the young man ran and was grateful. He watched his son shed tears - in victory and defeat - for himself and his running-mates.

So, when the day came for him to go, he first sent Laddie-Buck off to run. (If he had not, the young man never would have allowed the father to go) Then he bid a couched farewell to each princess in turn and, leaving his beloved Queen at home to wait until she was needed, he went out to die. This was done so swiftly, was orchestrated so well, that by the time the Queen was called, the deed was all but accomplished. And it was right that his queen be there, to bear witness, to be able to tell his children and subjects that their father and ruler had departed in a kingly fashion, cradled in the loving arms of both worlds - those of his wife and those of his faith. The King and Queen prayed and then he was gone.

Now Laddie-Buck was to receive the news, that he is no longer the Crown Prince. Laddie-Buck, as well as King Philip, has died. And this is as it should and must be. The House of Devonshire continues. Long live King Philip - as long as it takes for him to complete his mission. When he learned to die, to let go, to cry, he - like his father, became a truly worthy King of Hearts.

Monday, January 24, 2011

And the STEELERS 'R' goin to da SOUP-A-BOWL!

Monday evening quarterbacking is just SOOO on the money - as we used to say in the 'hood. (that would be Brooklyn). Can't speak for ALL (only b/c of time constraints, attention span, etc.) but I'm pooped (ALmost said 'beat' - oops) - so much shouting, molar-grinding, higher power invocation - the proverbial gamut. And then we had to watch the games. And eat. And eat. But Big Ben pulled it off. . . . Enuff football. This tripe is rapidly degenerating.

In the interest of soldiering on, however, fatigue be damned. I must at least share with you, as well as my gratitude for inviting me into your thoughts tonight, a "football story" - once or twice removed.

Back in the day, here in Hampton Roads, Virginia, I did quite a bit of community theater whilst raising the fam. It was therapeutic, my colleagues were great talents/people whose life circumstances were of the same stripe as my own, and "trotting the boards" was a far moan from my educational/professional experience which, albeit extremely challengeing/rewarding, tended to send one seeking intense 'couch time', what with the mortality/morbidity rates then existant in Coronary Care Nursing. I tended toward the comedic, 'light-fare, mindless metier and darned if I didn't secure many such roles with uncanny ease.

Having managed a decent showing in a Dinner Theater production of Neil Simon's "Prisoner of Second Avenue" (Not many natives down here can 'get' that NY accent across), I was fortunate to land a minor ingenue part in a Tidewater Dinner Theater Production of the Stars experiment - a VERY simple comedy STARRING (ready??) the wonderful, charming, talented, incredibly energetic Pat O'Brien (and wife Eloise). (Pat is seated, down right; Eloise down left and I'm standing behind Mr. O'Brien in the striped 'thing' in photo above)
You will recall his remarkable performance in "The Knute Rockney Story" which, tenuously, lends some papier mache link to what began this blog - a football story! It is indeed an enjoyable dessert to a 'football evening' & goes like this:
"This will never do", I thought. A dim, smoky, cluttered rehearsal hall, smelling of paint and wood shavings, is at best insulting for a theatrical legend. Then the door opened and the man entered with a presence, like a fog -- preceding, surrounding and following him, rolling over everything and everyone. His gait was halting - the shuffle of the very old and tired. He used a walking stick but didn't seem to favor any particular side or limb. His eyes were fixed on the floor as though making certain that the spot that would next bear his weight didn't move. He wore a black wool beret pulled to one side like the beginning of a grin. Making his way across the room to a sturdy wing chair, older than dirt (which he must have sighted before making his cross) he paused just long enough to ask the room -- or the floor -- "Am I on the set?". While twenty-odd people muttered negative responses with reverent voices, Pat O'Brien had eased himself down and sat beaming, beret on walking stick, gazing out as if at family whom he hadn't seen in years -- and dearly missed. There was no age in or about the chair now. His speaking voice, a clear tenor, echoed beautifully and the volume seemed effortless even though it originated from that frail, brittle rib cage. The director introduced himself as John and presented his assistant Mark. Pat let his eyes rest on two other men at random, saying with a bit of a rasping brogue, "Then you two must be Luke and Matthew." (One kid actually shot out "Yes sir!" before realizing what O'Brien was about.) And then the 'family' began to assume a form with Pat the uncontested patriarch, fueling and guiding our work with unexpected asides and commentary. The man's humor is not large, but subtle and well-placed -- a deftly-used tool for maintaining the energy level required to be both happy and productive. The remarkable thing about his appearance is its deception. Always meticulously groomed and tailored, he stands in a faint cloud of English Leather and fresh breath. His soft, white hair recedes as if forced to by his broad, shiny red forehead. His brows and lashes, too, have paled from the bright glow of clear, 'smiling' blue eyes. And the smile is there even when it isn't - at once the cherub and the rake. With short, chubby, arthritic fingers he makes the most delicate gestures which draw large pictures in the air. Incredibly, the shuffle would become a graceful walk whenever he was "on"; his joints seemed to glide over each other as they raised and lowered his frame, carrying it up, down and across the stage during rehearsals and performances. And then; what came to be the familiar 'downshift' into the off-stage pacing. "Got to rest the machine when you're not using it", he'd say.
His is a studied spontaneity, a controlled dynamism. The vitality - overwhelming on stage, is just as intense off, but wisely rationed into a pattern which reveals a man who is at peace with himself and therefore creates an easy, delightful ambience. There is much time spent waiting - before and during forty-eight performances. Sometimes Pat would nap but more often he would lead us in playing word games which required quick recall of obscure data. He usually won. Then, the game over, he'd settle back saying, "That reminds me of the time when . . . "while everyone sat fixed, ready to laugh or cry and be there "the time when . . . ." His tales, like his personality, were a beautiful blend of remembered tears and laughter. After every performance Pat would do a curtain routine -- stories and jokes. I knew how exhausted he was and I would stand and watch his profile, now graceful and soft in the blinding, hot follow-spot, reflecting the glow of a delighted audience, beads of perspiration covering his shining face. He would ease in to the Irish Blessing, pausing slightly after the final line to let the emotion settle like a mist. And then he was exiting toward me in the wings, waving to a standing ovation with his left hand while reaching for mine in the dark with his right. A slow, silent walk now to the dressing room and then that half turn, wink and smile for "Thank you, darlin'".
Well, one minute "you're standing in the wings; the next you're wearing them." And Pat has joined his Seraphim Cast. It/He was a precious experience which I hope you've enjoyed. Just this Christmas I re-gave our son, Philip a baseball purchased & autographed by Pat O'Brien on our ONE dark Sunday when he and the Mrs. went touring in Williamsburg. He was a true pro while being a true friend. (One evening, we took him and Eloise to dinner at a Virginia Beach restaurant and as he humbly entered, the orchestra rose and blasted the Notre Dame Fight Song. He stood rapt, generously/gratefully respectful and burst into applause at its conclusion.) I, of course, remain in his debt forever. Opening night, family/friends of ours flown in from all over, I "rang the doorbell", the door opened, I entered the 'set' living room, and stood, "stolid and stunned, a brother to the ox", thinking, "My God. I'm on the same stage as Pat O'Brien!" After a small eternity, he rose, approached me and kindly invited me in using my "role" name with pointed volume. I returned to the reality of the fiction with some semblence of comportment - I guess. . . .

Sunday, January 23, 2011

And so it goes and nobody knows. . . .

It's Sunday. Football Sunday, in USA argot. This afternoon it will be decided. The big question - dangling from the branches of THIS Family Tree - "Will the Bears and the STEELERS go to the Super Bowl?" (Pictured here is my jubilant sister, Eileen celebrating the STEELERS win of the 2009 Super Bowl) Having raised four wonderful sons, all of whom suffered from but one flaw, ie, they were Browns fans, she was understandibly ebullient. And for reasons good and sufficient, I'm sure, my son Ross, born & raised in Virginia, educated @ JMU, is a Bears fan. (Just can't seem to find a snapshot. I, too, am a STEELERS fan.) Only time will tell - but I dare use the olde saw, I hope the STEELERS 'HAVE THE TONY'.
Later, Lorane. . . .