Thursday, May 31, 2012

Benediction Two: Bobbie, Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin

  There is a magic time of day, for me, when the angle of the setting sun creates an ‘otherly’ aura to the early evening.  It’s as though a highly gifted union of lighting elves have been retained to ‘do their thing’ with glebes, scrims, back-lighting, follow spots – all to enhance the setting of whatever fabulation you are thinking, saying, doing.  “They” call it ‘dusk’.  And reputations DO precede.  But not another word.  Well, one, ‘apocryphal’, comes to mind. Thus was the night I was treated to Bobbie. 

      Returning from our walk, Bridie and I met her at the curb and fell quite naturally into an embrace and the start of a cherished relationship.  As we strolled around the bend toward our new, fair grounds, I know I heard strains of a calliope – faintly – but nevertheless.  It was apparent that we shared a savior faire attitude as regarded our neighborhood.  Why dwell on nothing.  But dwell we did, first in rhythmic, outdoor amblings, then on to perching on her bench in front of “the” window.  We shared stories of our dogs’ antics.  Bobbie’s white toy poodle  was a true con and Bridie wanted sooo to run, untethered, playing the huntress.

      On the evening the portals were to open, she’d brought ice water out for the pooches, who settled down under the bench, and simply said “Come.”  The dogs didn’t say a word.  Turning left – and walking past the famous bay window attraction – we were in the grande parlor.  Scented and crowded with objects d’art, I feasted sensually.  Pausing by an ancient baby piano, I took in the length of the room.  First the walls.  Hardly the “Ladies Who Lunch”.  Rather, under the glow of carefully placed mini-lights, the legion of flappers – seated, standing erect and aloof, lounging, one foot adorned – never clad – in a dangling blue satin shoe, staring in bobbed profile to the left and her next prey or just ‘in repose’. 

      Fringed, satin shawls draped divans and tables upon which tortoise shell curios adjacent to ivory safari animals lazed.  The mantle was home to arrangements of miniature groupings of china people, some exotically Asian, others Hoover ville USA.  Persians carpeted one’s footfalls as eventual forward movement began “The Tour”.  The 1920’s engulfed us. Not providing asylum and a fitting showcase for the art and artifacts of this exhilarating, raucous time in our country would render Bobbie an opprobrium to the cult and culture with which she had so fiercely identified herself in her personal life.

            I found myself walking slowly, reverently through rooms, cloaked with the very same sense of shame.  Certainly I had no basis with which to compare her heated involvement with our environs.  Yet there it was -  a found attachment and dedication to her life’s work. Mine was more of an ersatz passion but nonetheless moving.  Indeed, though very little was spoken on this is sojourn, the engine driving the silence was a shared sense of urgency.  It seemed imperative that we move along, our senses honed to the hilt, encompassing this cornucopia of gently preserved re-creation.  The re-creation itself, so impressively prolific had to have been accomplished with a  like intensity.

       The Art was a paean to the pioneers of that ’last hurrah’ mentality.  We were at the casting call for ‘Flappers and Philosophers’.  Certainly, Bobbie had appropriated the memories of others.  But, as Coco Chanel once said, “The dead are not dead as long as you think about them.”  Thus the sense of assertive immediacy. This clubhouse of artists created images with an eye toward perfect form and order - strange bedfellows indeed for the membership of the notorious decade best remembered for its flappers and Fords.

      And they were all there.  The only other such experience I recalled in this geographical locale was at the old Cavalier Hotel on Holly Road in Virginia Beach. The events planner had selected a quiet, empty time on a summer afternoon to show the ballroom that opened out through white french doors to a perimeter lanai– all tile, wicker and palm trees.  I was transfixed and gushed to my daughter, “Scott and Zelda danced here!”  The blue ice in her ‘who-are-Scott-and-Zelda’ blank tape look tore at my heart tissue.  MIND: red blood drops in the snow.

      Bobbie-the-event-planner, paid the same reverent attention to detail in her soiree-ready home.  Standing in for the Gerald Murphys – Jazz Age Dilettantes - she included all of the ‘usual’ luminaries.  You could hear and feel them – extraordinary talents, gifted with preternatural acuity. Georgia O’Keefe, Pablo Picasso, Clara Bow, Ansel Adams, Scott, Zelda – swimming, sunning, meditating, dancing, unique and reveling in their difference with ghostly toasts to their ‘home sweet heaven’.  If the world had only apprehended at the time that these were not creatures of instinct.

      Rodin had taught but a decade earlier that, being a naturalist, he believed one’s character is revealed by one’s emotions and concreteness of flesh.  What moment, I wondered, of Bobbie’s physical artistic awakening also marked the birth of her fruitful, fecund imagination?  It has been said that we are formed by what we desire. If seeing is the true language of perception, had she been exposed – consciously or subconsciously – to the art of the 20’s such that the memory of its perfect representation, ideal form and ordered clarity ignited her with desire?

      Like her demigods, she had responded to her dizzying world of modernity with works that seemed to evoke and embrace an idealized realism.  Having reluctantly turned right to embark on a gawking, halting march down a hallway, I saw to my immediate right yet another ‘false’ hallway.  False because its natural termination was now blocked with an enormous, mounted stained glass apse, scarfed, no doubt from a basilica whilst the archbish nodded off.  Bobbie excitedly explained that – miraculously – hubby Steve, an engineer, was able to find JUST the right alcove for its new residence.  Let’s give it up for Steve (before somebody gives Steve up).

      That brief break in the action permitted some spacial orientation and I realized we were ‘processing ‘ along a wall of brilliant stills of flora and fruit in oils on the wall to our left.  My distraction – ‘miracle apse’ – had been dramatic enough (and my mind now on overload of decades of visual stimulation) to actually FORGET to clue my eyes to the ‘open and obvious’ centerpiece of Bobbie’s kitchen.  Edible stills notwithstanding, I’d missed the fact that we were in the range ‘home’.  Possibly, the ISLAND center stage had blind-sided me (no pun intended and if perceived, so be it.)  This island – and I do not recall whether it was functional – was a large chunk of rectangular tile block, ?36” H, ?48”L and ?24” Deep. Standing where we were, rooting among the walled, still, oil garden, the 2’ by 4’ tile ‘side’ portrayed – in very bright cerise/gold/brown/black hues – the faces of a young man and young woman, smiling. 

      Bobbie’s blithe accompanying commentary, “It tells a story!”, had not yet achieved comprehension in MY cerebration area so I inched along, getting a glimpse of the ‘broadside’ action, a 4’ by 3’ tile imbued pictorially, in the same vivid-but-slightly-subdued hues, the young woman – flying solo without a net – crying.  Bobbie: “We found it in Italy!” (‘apsi-dentally, I’m sure).  Without further ado, I whipped around to the ‘end of the story’ – a 4’ by 3’ tile picturing the first young man, this time accompanied by a second young man – both smiling.  It was truly a stunner – artistically and thematically.  And, given the liberating Freudian juxtaposition revelations of the twenties, conceptually as well.

      The most extraordinary thing about Bobbie’s kitchen island, however – again, functionality withstanding or not – is it is very pretty, a fact, when shared, pleased Bobbie no end.  Think of Sally Bowles in “Cabaret”: “If someone were to ask me why I paint my fingernails green (and it just so happens I do paint them green), I’d say, ‘Because I think they’re pretty.’’’  Well, more’s the pity Bobbie can’t trot out her kitchen island as easily as her fingernails; because it’s PRETTY.

      Moving along, we came to Bobbie’s room, her special place, her personal place.  Here we are greeted by family and friends, photographed and framed, activity-oriented or in repose, as well as shelves of period dolls and never-to-be-forgotten doll house furniture – all lovingly positioned, grouped, displayed.  They are joined by Bobbie’s sketches and some portraiture – some personal, some universal, all 20’s.

      Even characters in motion – gentle motion – are sharing their feelings with the observer, who at times feels the bombastic interloper.  This because one’s gaze is fixed on a delicate, angular figure, bobbed curls dampened and drooping, one hand caressing the equally tear-moistened missive, his last from the front.  Her other hand rests lifelessly, a vessel for the lace, hand-crochet-edged pastel linen square, constant companion, tender comforter, atop the hiked hemline of her home-made velvet ‘welcome home’ dress.  Her long lashes closed on pale, sagging cheeks rob the viewer of likeness or expression on this ‘porcelain doll’s’ visage.  Her facial architecture, like her life, fading in increments such that the viewer recognizes less of her upon departure than upon discovery. It is meant to be.  Expressions of visual intimacy, like ‘flapper mentality’, were alluded to rather than delineated during this contradictory era.

      These were the ideas that dared: Faith in the potentiality of youth and the sustaining value of beauty.  This is why she moved on to Picasso and the impressionistic genre that used color for its own sake.  Her collection of his re-creations, prolific and profound, also introduces the ‘Ford’ to the ‘Flapper’.  The era was conflicted.  How to maintain individuality when mass production and mechanization is no longer a futuristic ideal.  Coincidentally, hubby Steve worked for Ford and after retirement, continued to travel, doing consignment work for them. They are still a strong and happy union.

      In fact, I was privileged to see a beautifully mounted collage, “The Many Faces Of Helen” – a wedding present to Steve and Bobbie.  The presenters, old friends of hers, always called her Helen.  They remain close, the two couples.  The collage was lovingly made by the gay couple p- two men who are surgeons but create framed art as a hobby.  The collage treats the world to thirty or so ‘Bobbies’ – in costumes, festooned with feathers, beads, sparkles, a rainbow of different wigs and scarves.  Each picture – most taken at fund-raisers – is injected with her vigorous humor and riotous life style which some might have viewed as stemming from the disreputable behavior of that ‘roaring’ era.  But Bobbie is thus adorned for reasons which define her and her art: it’s pretty.

       In the style of most of her mentors, she lived rather than just recreated her own art.  In that unusual, spontaneous display of her many faces, it was apparent that hers was a love of life lived with youth. She was photographed in costume many times as a very young and fetching performer. On a personal level, her belief that that beauty had a sustaining value was evidenced by the fact that she always wore a solid the gold choker, pending a stunning opal.  Globally, that same belief was evidenced by photographs of Betty Grable and other stars who’s beauty sustained our soldiers as they faced potential death protecting our - her country.

      For Bobbie’s sake: O’ art critics and philosophers: Like the Flappers -Lois Long, Dorothy Parker, Clare booth Luce, please deconstruct that formal language of collectors and museums.

      Lois Long, reviewed all your sisters and in the depth of your passion created the new woman journalist. Ms. Parker, your small talk alone revealed your taste for the element of surprise buffeted by the element of intelligence in commentary such as, “If all those sweet young things present at the Yale prom were laid end to end, I should not be surprised”. And Clare Booth Luce, taking advantage of the fortuitous fact of being Henry’s wife, executed her journalistic career brilliantly, and then before going on to represent her country abroad and in the House of Representatives, managed to find the time to leave a tableau of the new women, and write in the early thirties “The Women”.

      Bobbie knew/knows that Flappers were a cover for the launch of the new woman.  She asks: O’shapes, faces and material forms: Hold on to abstract thinking.  Believe in human freedom. Long live painting!  Long live Bobbie!
"Girl Jumping Rope" Janeen Koconis

Later, Lorane. . . .

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Benediction for Bobbie

      It was Spring - that 'new' time.  Languid walks were not so.  They were exciting.  This because we were 'new' - to the neighborhood.  We had been in the Hampton Roads area for forty-some years and lived in Norfolk - near the Trauma Center.  And lest anyone mistake this selection as familial autobiographical commentary, location WAS everything and doctor Daddy specialized in Emergency Medicine and Trauma - at work.  Around the house, he was your typical MIA father.  Time came, though, when - just like that, as they say - the kids were off to or finished with college and we were ready to downsize and smell some salt air. And we will, I promise, get to the bottom of who "they" are as well as their qualifications to speak to an issue - or at all - but not this evening.
      (The home we selected was the first one we'd seen in Virginia Beach.  I loved it and he said it was "out of the question" so we went through the motions of looking for a few years until misfortune blasted the owners' marriage apart and us back into the 'running' and the rest is history.  The same can be said of the 'hood.  There seems to be enough 'history' in this little beach-y mini-town to have it declared a 'wildlife preserve', thus obviating the need for property tax collection.  I'm just sayin'.  It's all pure conjecture. Of course "they" know but we don't speak.)
      It was such a cluttered period in our lives - marriages of children, grand peeps coming along, working - he medicine, me, the law - that evening, nay, ANY walk time was a respite, an adventure, sometimes a mystery even.  So it was with Bobbie's house.  Walking with our Beagle, Bridie, presented many an opportunity to pause, gaze disinterestedly and try to figure out what that 'thing' occupying the entire bay window on one side of their front door WAS.  If pressed, I would have said, "very large, dark wood, ornate skeleton of a 'period' cathedral."  And, in return for my effort, the inquirer would have blessed me with that 'look', you know, the one a family member would bestow on the doctor who, gazing at their loved one's x-ray, just said those words in response to, "Whaddya think it is, doc?"
      (Unfortunately for me, the treasure trove of history in this area did not include any on MY part in the arena of furnishings - fine or 'in-WAY-over-our-heads-here-so-making-do' in nature.  Furthermore, one can see - quite clearly - from the road that there is a sofa flanked by end tables plunked in front of our bay window.  You will come to see why this very fact placed Bobbie and me in the 'secret sisterhood' category.  Actually, I'm sure you already know.  Nary an object - save 'window treatment'  - don't know WHY that phrase must be used.  I mean, was the window ill? - can be ascertained viewing the main entrance side of ANY other address.   Bobbie, justifiably, was treating the world to but an iota of the assemblage of beautiful things contained within her home for magically attractive - in the magnetic sense - things.  We were not well enough ourselves to go the distance and 'treat' our windows.  To anything.)
      Ere long, I was treated to Bobbie.  And trust me, friends, there is no other way to tell you about the experience.  When a lovely, lemon-haired lady, seated and reading, on a tastefully ornate yet comfy bench in front of "the" window, clad in denim/crisp white/screaming sandals and a gold choker pending a stunning opal, leaps up and bounds across her front lawn, all a-chirp with smiles of greeting to you AND your beagle, color you 'treated', touched by an angel.  And that I was.  Because - as you really WILL come to see - that she is.  Later, Lorane. . . .

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Archetype of the Child or Lorane, Future Tense


           Today, as part of our promotion of “Youth Tube”, the Plum Tree’s newest and most exciting page, I give you, as well as I can recall, my thoughts, feelings and hopes for the future, as I knew them through the eyes and ears of the five year old named Lorraine.  (Her name change would present in adolescence, turbulent years, to L-O-R-A-N-E.)

           One of the arrows in the quiver used by Dr. Carl Jung in the early parts of the 20th century - while he was hard at work healing the mentally ill – was the “archetype”.  (His work was hard because, unlike his contemporaries who believed in repressing unpleasant  thoughts, Jung’s philosophy was expressed, “if you want to understand the jungle, you can’t be content just to sail back and forth near the shore.  You’ve got to get into it, no matter how strange and frightening it may seem.” Thus the ARCHETYPE was in essence part of the arsenal he used in his ongoing battle with the ghosts that haunted his patients.)

           An ‘archetype’ has no form of its own, but acts as an “organizing principle” on the things we see or do.  It’s like a black hole in space: you only know its there by how it draws matter in life to itself.  In deference to YouthTube, I selected the archetype of the Child as the engine that will drive this recollected olio of childhood experience.  Additionally, as the Child ARCHETYPE usually works in concert with other archetypes, blending with them to form a ‘child-god’, I shall include my relevant partner archetypes.  The cohorts that seemed best to ‘hang with’ my childhood as archetypal ‘pals’ were the Persona and the Hero. 


       Persona represents public image.  The word is related to the words ‘person’ and ‘personality’, coming from the Latin word for mask.  (Worked deliciously well for this kid - schooled in ‘Latin-esque Catholicism’ and branded “masque-and-bauble” from the first read-through of‘This is Your Life’.) My persona was the mask I donned before showing myself to the world.
Although it began as an archetype, by the time I’d finished ‘realizing’ it, it was the part of me most distant from the spiritual level of consciousness.

            At its best, it was just the ‘public impression’ I wished to present as I filled the roles society required of me.  At its worst, as it can be mistaken even by its owner for our true nature: at times, I believed I really was what I pretended to be!  What price ‘mistakes’?

           Many archetypes are story characters.  The hero is a main one.  He is the larger-than-life character, defeater of evil dragons.  Basically, he represents the ego - we do tend to identify with the hero of the story - and is often engaged in fighting the shadow, in the form of beasts and monsters.  Hero is, however, often dumb as a post, ignorant of the ways of the spiritual level of consciousness which Jung called the ‘collective unconscious’.  It’s tough enough being on ‘rescue call’.  Asking ‘Hero’ to be sensitive to the spiritual would surely put a dent in his armor. 

           And now, the archetypal star in my show – the Child.  In mythology and art the child is represented as children, infants most especially, as well as other small creatures.  The Christ child celebrated at Christmas is a manifestation of the Child Archetype, and represents the future, becoming, rebirth, and salvation.  Curiously, Christmas falls during the winter solstice, which in northern primitive cultures also represents the future and rebirth.  People used to light bonfires and perform ceremonies to encourage the sun’s return to them.  My childhood in Brooklyn seemed one long winter solstice.  I daresay, although we annually burned Casey Stengel in effigy, bonfires were discouraged in the city.  Ceremonies, on the other hand, were part and parcel of my fantasy life.  This is not to say I was a ritualistic child.  Rather, I embraced any occasion that I could bless or celebrate with dramatic, ceremonial flair.


           Jung placed ‘the child (including the child hero)’ in a list of archetypes incorporating the ‘chief among them . . .’.  (Color me like Sara Bernhard, squandering preciously-tossed/blown kisses to the now-standing masses in the dark, regally executing a third curtain call.)  Jungians exploring the hero myth have repeatedly noted that ‘over and over again one hears a tale describing hero’s miraculous but humble birth’.  What need, you may ask, masks the ‘stage-struck’?  What compelling force of nature marks special humans, setting them apart for life? 


           I concluded very early on, that it was an inevitable refuge of the unhappy child.  I could not have been more than five when, on a random day I placed all of my favorite dolls in the ‘Grampa-made’ wicker baby-doll carriage and planted myself  astride our apartment’s exit door.  Eventually – she was a busy lady – my mother noticed and graced me with that ‘and this is?’ look to which I brashly announced, “Surely we are moving.”  She went on with cooking dinner and I to pieces.  (Actually, it was more a ‘dramatic pause’.)  For I was all a- scheming, entrenched in the (show) business of contriving a world of my own.  Thence my tip-toe entrance onto the boards – inchoate, halting but definitely ‘prologue’ to my inevitable ‘trot’.

           I’d always had imaginary companions – Gene Autry a strange bedfellow among them – and even imaginary parents.  This last was in no way a transparent rejection of my God-given set.  Rather, I was ever intrigued by the Gypsies that, as a matter of course, inhabited sundry storefronts on our neighborhood’s main avenues.  Whereas, friends I was to make later in life spoke of ‘window shopping’ on Main Street or Fifth Ave, admiring/lusting after the latest season’s offerings in fashion and toys, I would regale them with enactments of ‘window-peering’, that is, straining, nose pressed against windows last washed during “the Big One”, to get a better gander at the even darker, shadowy outlines of the women and children of this or that ‘Gypsy Family’. 

           Their eyes had a piercing/arrogant yet enticing glow – with festively-‘painted’ sloe-shaped scrims and exaggerated black, elongated lashes sending ‘Morse-messages’ with their languidly open/shut activity.  Mysteriously back-lit vivid colors would break the lighting barrier, enhanced/aided by the glittering, reflective metallics of large hoop earrings and chain belting – sporting an occasional bell or a menacing talisman – now draping, now cinching the exotic materials that, sans under-trappings, swayed and spun, Salome-eat-your-heart-out.  And I recalled, during one of these ‘peerings’, posing a question to myself.  I was moved to wonder, “What if I’m not me?”

           Who might I have been yesterday?  Will I be a family member in France, during the Renaissance, tomorrow?  How long might this have been going on?  Will it always be thus?  To label these thoughts ‘odd’ is to trivialize what came to be my ‘way of being in the world’.  It was therefore a natural transition to amble from these musings into The Great Cattle Call – sung loudly by The Seasoned Sirens that changed courses of lives from time immortal. I would become of ‘the people of the theater’, that race of fanatics, the lost/dedicated tribe known as ‘actors’.  I would assume heroic or villainous guises, loving the love of a formerly bland, if not hostile world. 

           I innately KNEW my goal was attainable: TO BE MYSELF AND YET BE SOMEBODY ELSE – all the while loved for living this duality.  Relieved of any sense of guilt or confusion, I launched my thespian life.  If the essence of acting was the Art of being somebody else, I could/would be the consummate artist.  In keeping with the other attributes of the Archetype of the Child – my humble birth, fierce survival instincts, child-like longing for the innocent (regardless of age) – Jungians exploring this archetype have considered that ‘it represents our efforts to deal with the problem of growing up, aided by the illusion of an eternal fiction. 

           Thus, for Jung, “the child is potential future”, with the archetype symbolizing the whole personality in its development from primordial unconsciousness to ego consciousness to self.  Moreover, the child Archetype has a central part to play in assuaging the fear of the loss of connection with the past.  Jung taught that, in its retrospective aspect, ‘one of the functions of the child archetype is to recall the experiences and emotions of childhood to the adult mind.

           And it can get better.  Jung also allows as how in its prospective role, ‘for Jung the child archetype was a living symbol of future potentialities that bring balance, unity, and vitality to the conscious personality’ – such that the ‘mythic’ child symbolizes the lifelong process of psychological maturation.  I’ll take it.  Indeed, to even have ‘process’, there must be some tension – in the form of energy.  From a negative purview, tension – as in anxiety – leads to discomfiture, impedes progress.  Thus far, most of my negative tension has been contained in my personal unconscious, in dreams.  It’s always a version of the same dream:  Curtain going up, “Places!” and I either do not have a script or have forgotten ALL of my lines.

           I’ll take that, too.  My interpretation yields not failure but the need for further development/growth.  I’m simply not yet ready.  We’ll call that: “Lorane, Present Tense”.  You’ve just heard – from Child Lorane – “Lorane, Past Tense”.  Don’t know about you, but I wait in exhilarating anticipation for two VERY important ‘Child’ debuts – YouthTube on May 31, 2012 and Lorane, Future Tense”, TBA.


           There is always more to share.  Rather like the opportunity kids will have on YouTube:!home/mainPage/

         I hope you enjoy my sharing of this anonymous find as much as I did.

Later, Lorane. . . .


Sunday, May 13, 2012

To Tell You the Truth. . .

      If I were to compose a compendium of phrases, habits, annoyances and the like, you can be certain that "to tell you the truth" would be number one on that 'miss' parade.  Can't even dance to it.  In my experience, it seems generally to fall out of mouths that, bent on speaking - or saying ANYthing - belong to the careless-of-expression, mute listeners of their own oration, often less than candid and tending toward fulsome responses that repulse rather than respond to the listener.
      Never, then, did I imagine an occasion when I would employ this over-used and reflexive phrase.  And imagination notwithstanding, the 'deans-of-discipline' in the real world would sever the instrument wielding the quill intent on using this verbiage as a TITLE of anything penned by yours truly.  What, you ask, caused this shocking breach of taste and literary comity?  I'll be quick about it - or is it too late - to dull the sting.  Simple is as simple writes: I simply couldn't fit my conscience into any other of this season's "Simplicity" patterns.
      There.  I said it.  No choice.  See, there was this quandary.And it didn't 'walk into a room or a bar.'  It didn't do anything.  Just plopped atop a pile of like cast-off cant ant would/could not be supplanted with an acceptable bon mot.  QUANDARY:
  wanted/needed to write today
  unfinished business past deadline
  It is Mothers' Day and I refuse to resort to the banalities of  what   conventional wisdom labels 'polite conversation'.
      Sooo.  You'll just have to imagine there's been a diaspora of all the smart people and what we have left id me, writing in a somewhat disjoint fashion.  In psychiatry, I believe it's called 'flight of ideas'.  Do come, then and fly my friendly, albeit disordered skies of tales told randomly - but honestly.

While I lay in one of five different hospital beds (please see "While You Were Away. . .)  in Pittsburgh, wallowing in self-pity expressed with asperity, I heard a story on the local news, spoken as though it had  come straight from the Mount, of a beautiful child - one of a family of eleven children - who, having been born without hands, had just won a first place award for perfect penmanship.
      On presentation day, Annie, dressed on her sunny yellow school cardigan, matching yellow flower in her ebony hair, walked gracefully, decorously in her shiny royal blue patent uniform shoes to accept her trophy while her seven year-old classmates cheered her on with abandon.  Along with the trophy, Annie has earned a one thousand dollar prize to be applied to her education. 
      She was happy to oblige a request to demonstrate her skills and shared her ambitions enthusiastically.  Annie wants to write books about animals - fiction and non - when she grows up.  That was enough to rouse my sorry arse out of the doldrums of Gethsemane and dive into my physical therapy exercises with renewed elan.)

      Next up, a combo of my 'just wanting to write today' and Mothers' Day.
      (What's Mothers' Day without the Grand peeps?  Here we have Molly (UR), Mia (DL) and Emma (DR).  Molly, now 6, spent today with her older brother Declan, 10 and younger brother, Patrick, 3,  detailing, washing and buffing Mommy Robyn's car.  Mia, 3.5, above left, took Mommy Julie to the Boston Red Sox baseball game today and, along with Daddy, cheered the home team on to a 7-1 victory in a warm 'Beantown' sunbath.
      Emma, 4 and big sister to Charlie, almost 2, above in the pictorial collage they made to brighten up my hospital room, spent today making Mommy Jennie 'Queen Unquestioned' with performances like those pictured, story TELLING and a home-created outdoor Cafe festively adorned for the Mommy-no-cook cook out masterfully directed by Daddy.  Ya know, folks, just like the 'Hokie Pokie', that's what it's all about.)

      And Moi?  Well.  There were chats with my 'kids', my walk and exercises, some laundry and reverie.  This last is one of my favorite because  whereas I always fretted that my life might end up being a 'blank tape', it has/is quite a hoot.

      (I write because I refuse to let the past slip away.  You can't retrieve your life - unless it's on Wikipedia and, by definition, inaccurate.  And I'm not too comfy living in these 'google years' - all of its virtual/techno stuff bodes of my future becoming a constant affront.  For example, I'm SOOO techno-challenged, I couldn't figure out how to submit Emma's dear drawing to an exciting, new page for kids, "Youth Tube", sponsored by my beloved friends/colleagues at The Plum Tree Co., an organization for/by writers.  So, I'll just cheat it in here: That's me on
the left wearing glasses and a tad unsteady re: gait.  Emma's to my right looking for all the world like she's having sympathy 'gait issues' as well.  Charlie puts in an appearance on the following page but just as a signatory as his is a rather jammed dance card these days and 'art' is not on his agenda.  But Emma always is.)
The other passion - and it seems to be family-wide - that I cherish is the theater.  Some say that the lost tribe of drama fanatics has its roots in a form of compensation: it serves as a refuge for the unhappy child.  I prefer the Bard's theory - 'the world's a stage'.

      (The very essence of acting is the art of being someone else.  And the craft of the playwright is to make a fantasy of his own creation SO true to the lives of the characters he's creating, the audience accepts it as reality.  I've been working at both since childhood.  It was the day I asked myself, "What if I'm not me?" That little query launched me into sixty-seven years - and counting - of creating/being whomever.  The whole 'duality gestalt' really hooks me.
      And just when I'm having all manner of giggles being 'me' and 'the other' - and, mind you, I'm never confused as to where the 'I' stops and the 'thou' begins - along comes 'virtuality/we-can-do-it-with-computers'.  Not good.  I just know - KNOW - it does not bode well.  So, dear readers, I leave you this evening having revealed my 'boogieman'.  Perhaps, if you are of like mind - scratch that; if you were, you'd need adult supervision.  Perhaps you can just hope, for my sake, a little token of kindness, hope that one of the infelicities that stalk the script of my erstwhile dulcet and harmonious life's work - "Lorane, the Play" - is not teetering on the fringe of going 'dark'at the hands of "CyberScythe".)
Later, 'Ubermom' Lorane. . . .

Sunday, May 6, 2012

While You Were Away from My Desk

      Wow, there's ". . .Wearing Thin" and then there's "Puff. . ." as in the 'magic dragon'.  So which is it, you're wondering with hungry curiosity - or, having tapped the 'unfollow' key weeks ago, you're well over curious and getting on with your life.  Either way, more than the tall, fast, large or small, FRIEND-SHIPS are the most treasured of all.  I can only hope that ours, dear reader, is holding fast.
      (THE SCOOP:)
Lady walks into her favorite specialty food shoppe ("Taste Unlimited") and strikes a careless pose as well as 'up' a chat-cum-meaning-cum-'Lady, this is your life' with the new shoppe manager:
    NM:  "What's with the cane?"
    L:      "It's a Shillelagh" followed by a healthy dose of verbal diarrhea culminating with, "So I was told there's nothing else they can do to fix the discs in my back."
    NM:  "Oh yes there is. (Matter-of-fact-chirpy) You just have to see my friend David.  He'll know what to do."
    L:  Great.  And could you add avocado to that rare roast beef on croissant?"

      (Next Day:)
      L checks email - addressed to Lorane Leavy.  Hmmm.  Spam?  Who's David O., MD?  Wait.  Christy.  'Friend David'.  Opening it, I find I'm personally invited to go to UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center). Neurological Surgery for an evaluation by Dr. David O. on 01/23/12.  "Please bring all radiographic studies done since 2004 to the present and send a medical/surgical chronological synopsis ASAP via attachment."

      (Ensuing Days:)
      After performing duly diligent online/onvine research in 'the business', L complies with prerequisites and plans trip with husband, Phil (TR, for you 'old-timers').  By 01/26/12, Dr. O., having graciously reviewed pertinent CTs and x-rays, answering questions as we went along (Phil's were along the line of, "How much of a change do you see from December to now in the degree of listhesis?" whereas mine, "Gosh.  That's anything but a straight line." were simpler.) was prepared to render an assessment.
      We had two alternatives.  If we did nothing, he predicted that at this rate of accelerated degeneration, within 18 months I'd be wheelchair-bound on a Morphine pump.  OR, he could perform a very complex - technically and as regarded magnitude - operation during which, starting as high in the spine (bra-line level) as possible, he would insert man-made discs - like those in a normal spine - between each successive vertebra (crescent-shaped spine bones through which the spinal column and nerves exit from same) thus providing support and protection and allowing normal function of the muscles controlled by these nerves and giving the nerves the stability I now lacked to maintain their normal position.  (I'd had four surgeries to date wherein the damaged discs were removed and the vertebrae fused one to another.  During my last surgery, L2-3, the hardware - screws, etc. that had been placed below from L4 to the sacrum were removed.  Unfortunately, there never had been fusion, so within a short time nothing from L3 down was 'connected' and every time I moved, the bones with the nerve exit holes would move as well.)
      We seemed to see ONLY alternative #2, but he preferred we return home, meet with the fam, think, pray and THEN respond.  This was on Friday.  By Sunday, we emailed, "#2, ASAP, Please."  Reply:  kind and endearing assistant Kathleen B mailed us a mountain of forms.  Dr. David called five days later apologizing for his tardy response (He'd been in Istanbul for a week, lecturing an international audience of surgeons on his surgical treatment of spinal deformities.)
      We agreed on a date - 04/06/12, Good Friday - and I enrolled us in a new parish as our dear friend/pastor had retired in June and I planned to ask the newly-ordained and familiar pastor of Holy Spirit to administer the strengthening Sacraments of the Sick before departing for PA.
    Fr. Tim:  "Sure.  Who's your doctor?"
    Lorane:   "Dr. O."
    Fr. Tim:  Chuckle
    Lorane:  ?
    Fr. Tim:  "The Os have been parishioners here for years.  I've even met David when he was home visiting."

      (Cue the 'Twilight Zone' Theme:)
      A fondness for gourmet sandwiches leads to my meeting Christy - who is 1 of 4 sibs, native of Virginia Beach all of whom have known David - also 1 of 4 - since parochial grade school.  Their families shared many a dinner at the Os as Mrs. O is a dynamite cook and Daddy O, fascinated with computers, would hold these eight well-fed buddies captive with his ad lib, apres dessert tutorials.  Follow this serendipitous olio with the execution of Dr. O's pre-op orders, having 'must talk'ed to and become the patient of this formerly unheard-of surgeon, capping the prep off with the administration of the healing sacramental oils by his family's pastor.  Fr. Tim's send-off words:  "Go with God."
      CUT.  (Hold that 'God' thought.)  04/06/12:)
      A fifteen-hour surgery was performed on Lorane while hubby and her three children paced it out in the waiting area.  Then.  BLACKOUT in OR.  Lorane was transferred to ICU.  Dr. David approached the waiting, stolid, terrified family.  After answering all simultaneously catapulted questions coming his way, he concluded reassuringly, "Things went REALLY well, guys.  We're looking for a complete recovery."  Family breathes.  He answers a few more questions then quietly returns to his battlefield.  Family returns home to be with THEIR families when Easter Bunny arrives.  Phil remains, getting ensconced into his home-away-from-home, the hospital's Family House.  Traveling light, he only needed the TV sports schedule and 10 or so lbs of Butterfingers - Easter Bunny NEVER forgets Phil, in his home town no less - to get settled in.
      (Easter Sunday:)
      I opened my eyes to see Dr. David in the ICU.  Gently/with firm encouragement, he said, "Stand up, Lorane."  I locked on his intensely commanding gaze and stood.  For the first time in seven years, there was no pain. Tearfully, I managed, "Guess it WAS a Good Friday, huh."  Smiling broadly, he responded, "It sure was."

[ONWARD:  ICU to Step-Down Unit, dramatic drop in platelet count, a fall/fracture of L3, transfer to Accelerated Rehab Floor, development of 'pseudo-gout' bilaterally in feet (looked like cantaloupes), premature discharge from Rehab Unit without telling my docs, wheeled into Rm 1067 (Patient in THAT bed seemed to prefer solo occupancy), then 1065, 1063, etc. (think "Airplane") until, 'what ho!', an empty room 1025.  Delivery woman retreats; P.T. staff delivered belongings and left; nine hours of "Who are you?"; finally Internal Medicine doc admitted me to his service - GI - so I could receive food, water and treatment; following day, he discharges me as Dr. David's docs there - as they were supposed to be, having no knowledge of early departure from Rehab Floor - and admitted me until transfer could be arranged to the Temporary Care Unit (slow pace rehabilitation) where a host of caring, qualified, efficient care providers executed all orders of Dr. David and his Medical Team surrogates.  Things moved along swimmingly save for the brace ordered by Dr. David - a torso affair that had been constructed according to his measurements of my new spinal architecture.  This would be addressed.)

      There were setbacks, glum chum days, the pain of every muscle accustomed to taking orders from my twisted, bent, scoliotic, shortened spine now having to make dramatic changes in length, function and location to appease this new spine, crafted by Dr. O, designed by God.
      So.  That's what I've been doing these past four weeks, working with my new best friend, "Brace", constructed to precisely mirror the architecture Dr. David blanketed with skin and sutured shut in the OR.  Proceeding tentatively, I  baby-stepped through the rigors of P.T. and the re-learning of 'Activities of Daily Living' until, after one last re-sizing of "Brace", I was carried back to 'ole Virginny' where the REAL work will commence.  It'll be at least a year before any pronouncements are made re: outcome.  BUT.  There should be no need for further surgery.  And function?  'The Bells are Ringin' for Me and My Muscles'  Shall/will we dance?  I've hung up my tap and jazz shoes but my 'shuffle-off-to-Buffalos' are waiting for the 'cattle call.'

      (Back to that 'thought-on-Hold':)
      I see 'Hand of God', as in Rodin, orchestrating this entire experience.  THIS spine came from a realm NOT ruled by human will.  I mean, MY will - such as it is - would have me crying out for freedom from pain and restriction of movement.  Then what?  It (MY will) whispers to me in my dreams: Go to Taste Unlimited; use a Shillelagh; befriend one called Christy;  She knows the way to "The Healer"; they are friends from childhood/share the family/friendship/interdependence bond which is eternal.  Healer will respond/bring you into their fold to re-create/restore that which you have lost.  Pleased, he will broaden the circle of friends - you, your family, his family - all through the portals of the Holy House, er, Spirit Church, your new parish.

NOT.  Not even close.  Rather, THIS Hand of God is possessed of hidden forces which shape the fate of man.  This "Hand" is the PULSING ENERGY that drives us and manifests itself despite social rules and constraints.  (What if I'd never heard of Taste Unlimited? Went there on a day Christy was off?  Never returned because it was too expensive?  The avocado was mushy?)
      THIS 'Hand' allows for disorder and spontaneity.  Each of its creations must be filled with its INNER POWER.  Rodin taught that the surface of his creations (in my case, hesitant, plagued with co-morbidity) is the VISIBLE result of an INvisible force.  Further, he entreated his students to make their minds understand every surface as the OUTER LIMIT of a volume pressing against it.
      Rodin believed in the power of NATURE as his inspiration - when he sculpted The Hand of God as well as The Gates of Hell.  (I, for one, having seen his work in a traveling exhibit in DC many years ago, wondered who he got to 'sit' for The Hand of God?  Models for the Gates of Hell, I reasoned, were in abundance.)
      He felt that ALL life has its origin in a center which then blossoms and unfolds outward.  This center, he called, the INNER PULSE.  It is the very same 'pulse' or ENERGY that drives, oblivious to constraints.  In my experience of the Hand of God, without it, society and age would have directed the continuing process of degradation.  The Hand of God - in its serendipitous fashion, via disorder and spontaneity, INTERRUPTED the anticipated, predictable pattern, leading me to the UNcultivated "rest' - the LANDSCAPE beyond the city's borders.
      If I were a sculpture, my surface/OUTER LIMIT would be under the volume of force coming from the true center, the INNER PULSE.  My life, then, must originate in a center which blossoms, unfolds outward from within or from this INNER PULSE.  (I'd like to think of it as God.  Your call.  No constraints.)  But, if you  chose to follow along, let me know if you sense/feel it before I do.
Later, Lorane. . . .