Sunday, December 22, 2013

On 'By-And-Under-Standing' Greatness

       Good heavens! Has it really been that long?  Sorry.  But these past several months have delivered blows - health-related and loss-related.  One of the losses was particularly painful, marking as well a " rite of passage" in my life.  But, shamefully, the loss I believe I am missing the most is ME.  Yes.  That wasn't a typo.  I believe I 'lost' myself as well.  (Along with my quill.  Even Do Tell couldn't recall where I last stored it.)  But back to me.  (Propriety not withstanding, all humans are happiest when the topic is all about them.)
       During this literary hiatus - because of which, dear readers, (both of you) your lives were less rich.  There has been ample time for mulling.  And mull I did.  Ti's the season, after all.  I replayed this saga, even taking notes at times (And how pathetic is that?) decade by decade, ultimately concluding that it has been given to me the role of " almost-making-it-but-knowing-many-who-truly-have.  And-knowing-them-well."
       The following outpouring should explain. A) the title of this post and  B) why somewhere in the midst of these reflections I lost that coiner of snappy little phrases, wife and mom who truly contributed and supported "Sparky" and our offspring, Grams of seven little Peeps who saw her as someone to have fun with and never have to worry about prepositions during, and would some day make it in the major leagues.  She's the one I lost, most regrettably.
       Formative years.  Birth to age 10 in Brooklyn was an asymmetrical composition in which space - geometric and emotional - loomed and receded sharply and with no discernible etiology.  There were spans of time when my innermost dreams of my future suggested glowing lights and their  sparkling reflections on a wet street.  These were countered by spans when I mentally fought to enlist suggestive atmospheric effects that could surround me - like engaging oil canvases - to mute and the harshness of my reality - a blank GPS covered with soot.
       Perhaps this explains my passion for literature and the theater.  When the afternoon light began to fade, I could take refuge in a book or see a performance that portrayed elegant urbanities enjoying their surroundings.  And there is no doubting that I even reached my eleventh year because I was enveloped in familial love and support and blessed with a strong faith.
       I prettified my environs in my active imagination.  We all did.  The creek that was crossed by the splintered, rusty nailed bridge that led from Greenpoint to Long Island City was referred to as Lavender Lake, a favorite swimming hole of hood kids who never noticed the awful fumes from the glue factory when diving wildly from tar-splashed pier poles.  Rather, we saw Lavender Lake as white and shining, reflecting certain-to-be future Summer Olympians.  Majestic elms framed our mental portrait of the lake. There was nary a tree in the real neighborhood.
       Eleven to twenty.  I decided to characterize (Stray thought: I once ghost wrote a book for a Colombian doctor because he pronounced characterized ka-RAK'-tur-ized and said 'urinal' instead of journal.  Brilliant fellow but a expression challenged.) this decade "movement".
       I seemed to live half of my life on subways, buses, and an occasional car.  I 'moved' daily from Greenpoint Brooklyn to the Prospect Park section to attend an all girls, small, Catholic high school.  I understand it is a school for the deaf now.  In many ways, it was then too.  The students, well, my friends, had little use for what passed as education at the hands of the sisters of Saint Joseph, most of whom were octogenarians or deficient in some educational fashion.
       For example, we had a French teacher with a significant stutter, exacerbated by hour snickering; a principal whose credo was all proper, young Catholic girls had two options - attend saint Joseph's college, majoring in English or education or go to a secretarial school and find employment that would culminate in getting her MRS and a large family.  She therefore refused  me a letter of recommendation two Barnard college because students attended protestant services there.  (The word protestant was pronounced as though she were saying Druid.)
       Lastly, the only sports available to us were basketball - in a league of similar small all female academies - and cheer leading.  Working three evenings a week at Macy's precluded basketball but I did inquire about cheer leading. I was rejected because at that time I wore a 34C bra and jumping around publicly while cheering would 
make me an "occasion of sin". (To whom, I ask you.  We played only other all girl schools.)
       After high school, I moved from New York to DC where, after four years, I had earned a BS in nursing, a serious boyfriend who was still in med school, and the chance to be part of the first coronary care unit in the country.  I snapped that one right up, moving back to New York, sharing an apartment with a fellow alum on third and Lex.
       As I tended writers, musicians (I actually called Isaac Stern "fiddler" and he rewarded me with one of his very rare smiles.), actors, (one such famous woman became my new best friend because I let her cover the hospital floor with her treasured lion skin rug, hauled to New York directly from slaughter on safari), and dignitaries.  The ambassador from Bahrain had the good taste to suffer his heart attack while  delivering a speech at the UN.
       The event netted him a swift drive to our unit and me as his care provider.  In return, at the conclusion of his protracted stay with us, he sent one of his minions to fetch 30 or so bottles of Ramu perfume from Kenneth's.  None of the other staff liked it.  I kept and treasured all 30 bottles.
       Headquartered in our CCU and the Cornell Medical Center tower (from which one could see and hear the raucous soirees hosted by old blue eyes in his Sutton Place apartment) I became acutely aware of how truly ordinary these beings extraordinaire were when death toyed with the notion of feting them at his soiree.  Their  gratitude - when beating him at his game - was boundless and lavishly strewn upon their care providers.
       When loss of life looms large for the 'great', the reactions are variable but the one element of common denomination is fettered candor regarding very personal issues.  It seems to be a shared need among these very uncommon creatures.  AND - pardon the pun - they share these ruminations of their souls with the nearest "COMMONER" which so often was me.
       Thus, I inherited that dubious privilege of intently understanding (here we go again) the privileged as I stood or sat bedside, preserving their living (while earning nine) and piercing the walls of privacy that under normal circumstances permit few entrances.  The onlooker who, either by chance or curiosity, happened to observe these encounters/private interludes would doubtless comment - if the occasion arose - 'she seems out of place'.
       " Out of place" as though if this were the rolling credits at the end of a special news broadcast, she had been assigned and performed flawlessly the task of bringing this attentive audience up to date on the national weather, masterfully juggling the interplay of computerized, full color visuals, the artful and timely use of the ubiquitous pointer, the lavaliere mike from the control room, all the while executing professionalism in her posture, voice modulation, exacting enunciation, AND never a stumble in her serious but stylish four-inch heeled pumps.  A peasant necessarily among royalty whose spotlight moment, albeit brief, was functionally superb.  But the bottom line here  is, "Why does this director display inordinate lack of judgment by including the 'weather lady' among this avalanche of luminaries who had held his audience spellbound for to 2 hours?"
       And SHE, having been granted entrance to the wrong room, has no choice but to endure.  "Dear Diary, this evening I debuted what could conceivably be a career of performing "The remembered, banal, inexcusable, on-air, theatrically maleficent distraction".
       As it turned out, decades three, four, five and, so far six found me continually, although wearing a variety of different hats, executing that 'privilege' over and over again.  I "do" 'greats' very well and often.  My mulled thought on this activity can be summed up by concluding that the privilege is a gift without doubt and although it has taken five plus decades to realize it, it is a most rewarding service.
       It has also served to focus my life.  Rather then "missing" the lost conglomerate of the woman  I was a few months ago, I am determined to incorporate all of these roles, managing emphasis and time according to need.
       I had actually, Dear Diary, been granted access to the right room, which will be relished - not 'endured'.  And by way of example, I'll be sharing my experience with the great and talented actor, Pat O'Brien.  You'll just have to trust that during the several months we worked together, our personal relationship provided the opportunity to stand by and understand him.  For now, I must wrap this - and quite a few other things - up.
Later, Lorane. . . .