Thursday, March 20, 2008

Someone's First Thought






















I dreamt very strongly last night about my father - probably because I posted about him yesterday in George and Edna. A performance that I did for my 2003 Beginning Performance class was about my Dad (see Primary Dream for more about that performance class). When he knew that he was dying of cancer ten years ago, my father started a journal for the first time in his life. He told me that he wanted all of his children to read it after he died, and I read it about a year after his death. In it, my father wrote about childhood memories and things that he was grateful for. He also wrote about some things that had been difficult for him. He was the youngest of six children, and was born when his mother was 40 years old. Dad had told me that my grandmother favored one of his older brothers. Having an older and somewhat tired mother who gave more of her attention to another son caused my father to grow up feeling emotionally needy. My father was very affectionate and needed alot of attention - a true Leo! And as we tend to gravitate toward the familiar, he chose for his life partner, my mother, someone who has had tremendous difficulty with intimacy and so was often not emotionally available. They did that avoidance dance where he pursued her, and she pushed him away. (When I was growing up, this was a painful dynamic to observe, and of course it became my familiar.) Here is a powerfully sad line that my father wrote in his journal:
I wish that just once I had been some one's first thought.
My performance's title comes from this line.
In this performance I played the roles of three women in my father's life; his mother, his wife, and his daughter (my self). I hung a clothesline with my grandmother's clothes, my mother's clothes (plus a blonde ponytail) and my clothes, and using three projectors, showed a rotating slide show from our family archives on the wall behind the clothesline. One by one, I took each outfit off the clothesline and put it on, ending with my own clothes. Then I lit several candles, and knelt beside a MECA student named Brendon Farris who played the part of my father. At the point when I was wearing my mother's clothes, I had Brendon call out to her, "Ed, Edna, come to bed." These were his only spoken lines. My father used to stand at the top of the cellar stairs and call to my mother this way, when she would stay up late into the night sewing. Being a mother of six, this was her only time to be alone! Oh, the dance goes both ways.
And I had my own issues with my father that were difficult. But when he was dying we came to a place of peace. I shampooed his hair and sang to him and these simple administrations were spiritually healing for both of us. In Someone's First Thought, I re-enacted this with Brendon.
Video stills from Someone's First Thought, peformed at MECA, 2003

2 comments:

Susan Beauchemin said...

He's in both of our thoughts today--I just painted his old voigtlander camera! The old pictures of him tug at my heart.

Martha Miller said...

yes, i dreamt that dad died (again) this time of a massive stroke.in the dream i was so upset that it happened right after i left the room and i wasn't with him when he died.
get ready for more heart tugging -you will see in my next 2 posts...