LXII. It’s What We Are

Thursday, March 8, 2012 — The phantom of my blog has been going around vacuuming and doing some spring cleaning in here. He has mounted a fresh floral header – pear blossoms, I believe; and he has installed some new music in the right sidebar for you to listen to while you enjoy reading my posts.

Who wouldn’t want to keep a phantom around if he goes through your place vacuuming and tidying up?

My next-door neighbors tidied up their backyard this week. A tree company came around and chopped down three of their grand old trees – two maples and a conifer. Now from my studio window I can watch the cars fill up the parking lot at the Methodist church two blocks down the street; and I can see clear to the Acme supermarket a half mile away, over on the main road; I can tell what they have on sale. Well, almost – I can see the road but not the Acme.

One of my neighbor’s trees had been struck by lightning, another was struck repeatedly by the beak of a woodpecker, and the third was just plain rotted. Their yard looked like a park with all their trees and their impeccable maintenance. It is still attractive, but in the summer I will no longer be able to walk the lane bordering their yard, taking respite beneath the deep shade of those broadly reaching maple branches.

The pear trees that provided my photo op a few years ago are gone. The town chopped them down – probably because pedestrians got seasick bobbing among the hillocks the tree roots made beneath the historic brick sidewalks. God forbid you might stumble, spill hot coffee and burn yourself. I, though, wearing athletic shoes, can walk along a perfectly flat, concrete sidewalk, trip over nothing, and sail horizontally past two storefronts before landing on my feet, a performance I describe in Chapter XXVII, “The Horn Section.”

The 25th anniversary performance of “The Phantom of the Opera,” produced at the Royal Albert Hall, aired Sunday night on our local PBS station. Emma would have loved it; but she lay sleeping peacefully in her hospital bed downstairs, unaware. PBS aired this production as a fund raising effort and offered the DVD as a gift for an annual subscription at the $125 level. The spectacular production captivated me. Thankfully they didn’t burn down the Royal Albert Hall. With all those exploding plumes of fire on stage, can you imagine? Queen Victoria would have had a meltdown. But the phantom got me.

This phantom may be the best of them all. My friend R agrees. He is the youngest to perform the role of the phantom; he is Ramin Karimloo, born in Iran and raised in Canada. He was such a passionate, credible phantom, and when he removed his mask, he looked such a fright – long wisps of gray hair sporadically sprouted desolately from his skull, and his face a mass of scars and stitches and botched repairs. He was so utterly disconsolate to lose Christine. There it was, that lost loves thing. I could certainly relate to that. “Oh, poor baby,” I empathized. “How could she just walk away from him who is so sincere and loves her so much to go off with some guy akin to Barbie’s Ken?” Oh, it was awful. I was devastated. I grabbed my credit card and ran sobbing to the phone, blew my nose, dialed the number and subscribed at the $125 level. The DVD will be delivered in six to eight weeks. My friend R ran out and bought it at Walmart for $19.99. I wonder if it’s the same copy. You know how they always say you can’t get it anywhere else; this is an exclusive offer. We’ll see. I’d rather support PBS than Walmart, in any case.

Today the dogwood tree outside my studio window shows signs of reincarnating, springing to life with tiny white blossom buds, thousands upon thousands of them at the tips of the branches. In a couple weeks the branches will appear laden with snow.

Two days ago I walked to a store near the Acme to talk to my friend who works there.  I wanted to know how she was getting along and to hear her story. She just lost her mom to cancer. Her mom, who lived in Florida, underwent a regimen of medical screenings last fall, emerging with a clean bill of health. A few years ago, after she had her breast cancer removed, she refused follow-up treatments; therefore her insurance did not cover testing for cancer. Suddenly she exhibited signs of what the medical professionals deemed dementia or Alzheimer’s. It turns out she had two brain tumors, one anterior, the other posterior. My friend rushed to Florida to be caregiver to her mom. Her mom mercifully lived only a few months without suffering much pain. My friend recently returned. She misses her mom very much. At the store we discussed how spiritually life changing is being a caregiver. Then a man walked in. “Stay if you can,” my friend told me. This man, Eugene, said he had just gotten his pastor’s license.

“It’s not about all that out there,” my friend said to us, waving her arm at the vast parking arena, cacophony of stores, and supermarket gas station outside the plate glass window. “It’s what’s inside each of us.”

The conversation among the three of us brought to mind my thoughts written in my pair of “What Am I Reading?” essays posted here under my menu heading “Sitting on a Juice Crate” – that you are born, grow up, get married, have children, lead a vibrant life, have grandchildren, become decrepit, watch everybody else lead their lives, and die.

“It’s what we are,” said Eugene.

—Samantha Mozart

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