Monday, May 14, 2012

Or So It Appears: A Play On Words

 "A memoir is how one remembers one's own life" Gore Vidal

Cast of Characters:
We Mind (Heard but not seen)
Mother (Mommy)
Father (Daddy)
1st daughter
2nd daughter
3rd daughter
Only son
4th daughter 5th child

Setting: The Humble family abode. Relatives and friends are sitting in rows of folding chairs which have been set up in the back yard. The five adult children of Mother and Father Humble are standing on a  raised wooden platform which Pooh, carpenter extraordinaire, has thrown together for the occasion. They are facing the audience of seated people and about to address them. Small children are running, climbing trees, playing on swing sets and a trampoline. Older children are playing yard tennis and horseshoes . It's a lovely Spring day. Father is snoozing under a Mimosa tree in his hammock. Mother is off in the distance, sitting on a wicker divan between an Ironwood and a Magnolia.  She is writing her memoir in a large spiral bound notebook and shows no interest in what's going on around her.  She is having a very bad hair day.

We Mind:
Mother is crazy.  But why is she crazy?  What makes her crazy?  What defines her craziness?  The Annual Conference on Mother’s Insanity is about to begin.  Alright, who’s kidding who?  Is this not the Daily Conference on Mother’s Sanity?  We will try to answer these and all other pertinent questions in the limited amount of time (and space) allotted.  We being, the soundest mind in the business.  Don’t roll your eyes.  Don’t snicker.  It’s true.  We won out.  We passed the test with flying colors.  We is the champion.  We done did it.  How did We do it?  Listen up.  We will tell you.  All minds were put in a shoe box, the lid of which was tightly secured with two fat rubberbands in crisscross fashion.  The box was then shuffled and shaken, tossed and hurled, kicked, batted, dunked, dodged and volleyed.  Only one mind survived this rigorous ordeal: the We Mind; the Master of Ceremonies, the Voice that speaks to you now from the marvelous surround sound that Father installed this very morning.  Thank you, Father.

1st daughter:
Yes. Mother is crazy, or so it appears. All of us have expected as much for years. But, how did she get that way?  What drove her there?  That's what I'd like to know.  That's what we'd all like to know, I'm sure.  So, with these questions and their many derivatives in mind, let us get down to the business for which we have assembled. Daddy, you can bang your gavel now. Daddy? Daddy! Will someone please wake up Daddy? Anybody want a beer? How about some coffee? Oh, never mind. Please stay in your seats.  Here comes Daddy now.  Daddy?  Daddy, where are you going?  You're supposed to bang the gavel.  Really?  You have to do that right now?  Can't you do that later?  No?  Alright.  Never mind.  Forget it.  Go do what you've got to do.  I'll bang the gavel.  Bang,bang,bang! The Annual Conference on Mother’s Sanity will now begin. 

2nd daughter:
We are hers, she is ours; we have a stake in her sanity, and we are determined to make things right for her and for ourselves, for we are inseparable, we are a family. And so, for that purpose, we have come together as a unit, to offer our individual observations and interpretations of mother’s mental state, and to provide a six part integrative therapy, each part or mode from our own particular area of expertise, and hopefully, complimentary to it’s counterparts.  So, let's get this show on the road, folks.  No point in putting it off any longer.  We don't want your tailbones getting numb.  Not to mention, I've got a tennis match in three hours.  Okie dokie then.  Our first order of business will be in the form of a Power Point presentation offering you a brief overview of our strategies for bringing about the “Social Adjustment” of Mother.  Peace out.  The devil made me say that. 

3rd daughter:
What’s that? Oh, yes. We would like to mention; there will be workshops following the lectures where we can actually try out the proposed therapies on Mother, or each other if you like. After all, we only have one Mother and she can’t be everywhere at once. And though I am sure we would all agree that no one could ever take her place, please feel free to be a sub, so to speak, be her stand in, her proxy. Sit in Mother’s chair, wear one of her many hats, slip into her shoes (God knows she has enough of them), put on one of her many aprons (yes, she still wears aprons.  Daddy thinks they're sexy - (yeah, I know, right?) and try to act and react as Mother would, or as you think (knowing her as well as you do), Mother should.  Over to you, Pooh. 

Only son:
The workshops and their leaders are as follows:
1. Labor Camp Headed (Enforced) by Daddy
2. Creative Insanity, Facilitated by 1st daughter
3. Sports for the Out-of-Sorts, Led by 2nd daughter
4. Politically Correct Obsessions, Offered by 3rd daughter
5. Wilderness and the Weird, Guided by moi, only son 4th child, Pooh.  Egad.  Will she ever stop calling me that? 
6. Putting the Squeeze on Anxiety, Demonstrated by 4th daughter-5th child

I hope you all brought your appetites. As usual, Mother has cooked for an army. You will find a sumptuous array of her specialties spread out on the dining room table. And please, remember your manners, and I am not speaking of your table manners. Remember, good therapists set good examples. Must I define “good’? No hee-hawing, no slapping of the thighs, no eye-rolling, no elbowing, and above all, no profanity. We can't berate Mother for using the F-word if we are going to use it ourselves. 

4th daughter 5th child:
Thank you one and all, our many aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and neighbors for your attendance at this conference today. It is reassuring to know that you have our Mother’s best interest at heart, and that we can count on you for input and support during these trying times. Yes Uncle Bud, what is it? Ah yes, Uncle Bud has asked me to announce that the keg is on the back porch and open for business. Daddy, you may now have the floor. Daddy. Daddy? Daddy! Will somebody please wake up Daddy.

I would like to begin with a quote from my own father. “Work all your life and what do you get? Dirty, rotten macaroni!” I remember hearing him say this many a time after a hard day’s work as he scraped the macaroni off his plate and into the garbage. And how is this anecdote, or whatever you want to call it, relevant to our reason for being here today? Yes, you over there in the blue shirt. Please speak up. Did everyone hear that? The guy in the blue shirt in the third row sitting next to the lady in the red beret - Tom isn’t it? – Mrs. Spencer’s son from two doors down, if I’m not mistaken – Tom has very accurately answered my question by saying “in no way whatsoever”. Very keen of you Tom, to realize that my father’s words have no relevance at all to the present plight of my dear wife and our gathering here today in a collaborative effort to break the cycle of her apparent craziness.

My wife is an excellent cook. Always has been. Nope. There’s no complaint in that department. Even on her worst days she manages to have a nice dinner waiting for me. My point here is this: even the craziest of mothers can continue to function and pass as perfectly sane. This is the case with you-know-who. But to those of us who know her best, who see her everyday and who must, for reasons of proximity, interact day-in and day-out with her, we, the chosen few who live under the same roof, (and a good roof it is I’ll have you know) have all the evidence we need that she is not all there, or here, if you will.

I can not pinpoint the exact moment of her departure. She, in lucid moments, traces it all the way back to our first Christmas together as man and wife, and that my friends is a paradox, because when she brings up all that old shit she is anything but lucid. But bring it up she does, again and again and again. Now you tell me, what good is that story and why has she hung on to it all these years? Tom, please put down your hand. Give someone else a chance. Somebody other than Tom please. Yes, Aunt Mabel. No, you don’t have to come up here. You can stay in your seat. No, please Aunt Mabel, stay in your seat. Well, okay then, if you insist. What’s that? You want to sing a song? But really, Aunt Mabel, this is not the time and place. What's that you say?  Carrot cake?  Donny, will you go out to Aunt Mabel’s car and get the carrot cake in the back seat? There’s been a little change in the program folks. Aunt Mabel will now sing “Blessed Assurance”.

Very nice, very nice. Thanks, Aunt Mabel. Now, where was I?  Ah, yes. Excuses, excuses, excuses. The accused are always looking for excuses. “Excuse me please, I’m crazy but I have a good excuse.”  Nonsense, there is no excuse for craziness.  I don't buy excuses.  It's best to turn a deaf ear.  There is no excuse for laziness. If everyone was like me, there would be no insanity. Hard work. That’s what people need. If everyone worked as hard as I work they wouldn’t have time to be waylaid down the idle avenues that lead to mental instability. That is my dear wife’s problem. Too much time on her hands. We have got to keep her busy so she can’t sit around making up stories. Why do you think I leave my stuff lying all around the house? Yes, Tom, go ahead, just shout it out, why don’t you? Because I’m a slob? Very funny, Tom, very funny. No. Not because I’m a slob. I leave my stuff all over the house to keep my her busy. She can’t stand to see my crap everywhere. It drives her crazy. She has to put it away where it belongs. See? You got to keep them busy. 

We Mind:
Yes.  We would do well to keep busy, wouldn't We?  But We must not fail to understand that appearances are deceiving.  Mother has her own way of keeping busy, and although it may appear that she is staring into space and doing nothing, she is in fact, busy.  She is busy thinking.  How many times has We seen her sitting at the kitchen table with her chin in her hand gazing up at the ceiling or down at the floor, as a fortune teller gazes into a crystal ball, and when interrupted at such times, how often has We heard her say, “Don’t bother me, I’m busy.”   Busy is as busy does, and when Mother is thinking, she is most busy doing.  We must do what We can do to provide peace and quiet for her to do what she does. When there is too much noise she can’t  see or hear herself think.  Mother doesn’t think as We thinks.  Mother doesn't do as We does.   We has noticed that at times Mother provides sound effects to accompany or enhance her thinking.  It may appear to the untrained observer that she is talking to herself but We knows better.  We knows she is in the act of creating.  We bets you don't know that Mother can read an entire book, silently, mentally, in the voice of Donald Duck. How does that grab you?  She once told We that she found it very frustrating to be able to think and read in Donald Duck but not speak it.  Her mind is never still or dull or boring, it is always looking for a challenge.  Who knows?  With practice, and cooperation, Mother may one day meet the challenge and master the art of speaking fluent Donald Duck.

(to be continued) (maybe)

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