So I just got an e-mail from my buddy Jordan telling me they are reviving the musical of TITANIC. My mother, who seemed indestructible, saw it. She had checked herself out of the hospital, where she didn't care to be any longer, because everybody there was sick or old, two things she never cared to acknowledge she might be one day, oblivious or blind to the fact that that day had come, ate dinner, went to see TITANIC, went home, went to bed, and never got up. I said once, glibly, I suppose, since I have a tendency to do that from time to time, that we all might hope for such an ending, but maybe a better musical.
This was too easily said on my part-- the relief I probably felt that she did not have a protracted exit, since she couldn't stand the idea of being old, was doubtless ameliorated by my having been able to avoid the actual pain of witnessing her departure. My wonderful friend Deanna, everybody's wonderful friend who is lucky enough to know her, having been called by Jeannie, the unbelievable (there are Blessings) so-called "housekeeper" at the Hampshire House to let me know. I was in England, or maybe it was Ireland, writing travel for the Wall Street Journal Europe at the time--I can remember the table where I was sitting having supper, in a small restaurant on a street I can still walk along in my mind, though I can't call up right away exactly what town it was. But I remember getting the news, ordering something I thought would please my mother, toasting her, and writing a poem saluting her, and I still have the poem though the place where it was written eludes me, as names have a way of eluding me lately, which I hope is indicative of losing only brain cells I really don't need anymore.
But as I said, that might have been unfair, saying we might hope for a better musical, because I never saw it. And now I will be able to. It is of course my hope that the better musical that precedes my ending might be mine, that dream I have been pursuing for what seems and probably is the best portion of my adult life, so many years of it spent writing novels, not enough years of it spent in being a partner for Don, raising children I loved, and having great and inspiring animals ("But you've been very lucky with your dogs," my Aunt Rita said, when I expressed sorrow, after Don's death, at how it was going with my kids, a title I actually thought I might put on a book, it was so funny, and would, I was sure, inspire everybody to buy it, except they would feel guilty, so there went that.)
These have not been fallow years, creatively, and for that I am more than grateful. But I look forward to seeing TITANIC, because I want to know if it was worth the last night of my mother's life, and if it was as good as some people said, unfairly sunk too soon, as it were. And it seems thoughtful of the Weisslers, who have a name that is easier to remember and less kind in local theatrical lore, to bring it back, as I am in the midst of feeling Angst about the musical of"The Bridges of Madison Country," a book I struggled not to loathe though I couldn't help myself, but liked the movie anyway, as forced as Meryl Streep's accent tried not to seem-- she just couldn't help being wonderful, except when she played Shirley MacLaine's daughter.
It is not an easy world, even when you have studied with Jack, and understand with every fiber of your being that we are not in competition with each other, but only given the task of letting the garbage fall away and becoming ourselves. And to do that, we only have to let go, and allow. Still, there is the task of Overcoming-- 1) all the anxieties created by New York 2) the impossibility of anyone else being in the hurry you are, because you have waited so long and Patience was always your short suit, and that is your True Job, learning how to wait, a skill you have never mastered, even though you have learned to gaze out a back window that faces a rooftop so cluttered with ugly green metal chimneys and ropes that it takes away the majesty of the word "rooftop," and seems only the step over to the towering and cheesy glass building on 57th Street that the crane fell off of, and in the bar behind the Essex House next door I met an engineer who, after a few drinks, said he had worked on that and the materials were so cheap that it could be brought down by a high wind, which I understand we can expect one of these unlovingly un-environmentally conscious years in spite of what Mary Matalin says-- is she that tight-lipped because of Botox or being a Republican?
Well, clearly I have paid little attention to Mrs. Berthoff, the wonderful writing teacher I had at Bryn Mawr who told me to be careful of run-on sentences. But it is Life I am puzzling over at this point in mine. The big question: Do we come in with a Destiny? Do I get to go to the opening of mine?
Jeannie said when she found my mother, she had her hand in the air, as though she were holding a pencil, about to write something. Was it a review of Titanic?