L. Backstage – Act I

February 4, 2012 — I was up on the catwalk, getting an overview of the action when the phantom of my blog came up behind me and nudged me over the edge. I grabbed hold of a rope in the fly system. Not being much for rope climbing, I slid rapidly down to the knot at the end and got rope burn on the palms of my hands. At the end of my rope, I determined I had to let go and fall where I may….

I seem to have landed amidst of a heap of backdrops. It’s hard to know which scene I’m in, what my role is; moreover, when I recite my lines, my audience does not comprehend. I think I am speaking English to an English-speaking audience. I recognize the futility of becoming the director of my own play; I’ve made one hundred false starts, to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald, always interrupted by a change in scene. Following is an Act I synopsis:

Monday, January 30 – In my observations of Emma, I have noted the following: 1) She is still not calmed; 2) She wants me to be sure the dogs are fed – they need to be bought some dog food, and then she hopes they will find a dry spot to sleep. I think that she says this because she has a dry patchy spot under her eye, on which I just put moisturizing lotion, and that she was hungry (has now eaten); and 3) She said, “Maybe she could sleep with me tonight,” speaking of her dogs (the toy poodles she once raised) – does she, after all, miss Jetta, our blue teacup poodle I put to sleep on December 5? Or does she just want to sleep? I do not know what she means by dry spot. I offer her water and other liquids but she refuses them.

Emma’s speaking and actions this afternoon signal another bout of agitation. First, she starts in the morning resisting our healthcare aide’s efforts; by midday, she speaks in cryptograms; by afternoon she is making decipherable sentences. Tess, our Hospice nurse, is due for a visit today. Good.

It is so sad. Emma knows it and I know it. “This is terrible,” she said this afternoon, and “I don’t know what got into me. I can’t get up and go downstairs by myself.” A dilemma; and I wonder who actually cares about this: Just before her scheduled arrival time, Tess calls and says she can’t make it. She has to draw blood somewhere. It is my understanding that our Hospice has left Tess isolated down in our area, 40 miles from the main office, and she is overworked. As far as Emma and I go, we are not priority. I am by myself, alone, in this. Despite they’re saying, “Oh, you can call,” they do not act: A call for action gets a muddled response. I cannot call – I’d sooner pose nude before a mirror and post it on my blog, than to experience the trauma of an argument.

The author of my favorite blog, Lame Adventures, who after recently attending New York City playwright Young Jean Lee’s Untitled Feminist Show, in which the performers, all women, appear nude on a nude stage, photographed herself nude before a mirror and posted it on her blog. Kudos to her for seeing the naked truth and putting it out there. (Do not expect me to appear the same here, ever.)

At eight o’clock I gave Emma a fifth dose of Haldol (as prescribed, one milligram per hour, as needed) and as I grabbed the bottle with the eyedropper in it, I nearly knocked over the glass of water our aide, Daphne, had left on Emma’s over-the-bed tray table. “Oh, dammit,” I said.

“I hear you, baby,” responded Emma. I think she was thinking of my stepfather; she called him baby, not me.

“I know you do,” I said. “Here is some more medicine.”

I inserted the dropper into her mouth. “Gakhh,” she said, turning her head away.

“It’ll make you feel better,” I said, in my feeble attempt to reassure her. “Now try to get some sleep.”

I wonder if Emma is aware at this point that when we leave this earth, we leave naked and alone. We live on it naked and alone, palpably periodically.

As in a scene with my dog Kolia, my black, blue-eyed husky/wolf/German shepherd, when I’d let him off his leash on the bridle path, he was good, good, good, running along just ahead of me, his head bobbing slightly from side to side as was his husky nature, all happy and free. Then, “I’m gonna take off this way,” he’d say, turn left, and head off down a side street dead ending perpendicular to the bridle path. I remember so clearly that day nearly 30 years ago in Palos Verdes Estates, California, when, with no car sense, he ran right out into the traffic of a heavily traveled two lane road that wound up the hill. I could only stand there alone, with my heart in my mouth, watching him as he pranced, heedless and carefree, among the front and rear bumpers of 40-mile-an-hour cars coming around the bend. By the grace of the dog goddesses and alert drivers, he made it through safely. But until that moment, all I could do was stand there and watch.

I sat up all night with Emma, giving her dose after dose of Haldol every hour, watching at her bedside.

–To be continued …

–Samantha Mozart