“Oh I love this. Isn’t this wonderful? Maria makes me laugh. She’s showing him whose boss! I like her, but he’s…an Ass,” Mom asserts dryly in response to Captain Von Trapp’s absurd command to use that stupid whistle with the children in The Sound of Music.
Within the first scene of The Sound of Music Singalong, she is the woman I remember. She tells it like it is. And I am so damn happy. I know, it sounds so simple. But it’s HUGE in our world. Please understand.
Gone are the mutterings about going home. Gone is talk of this pretend “MaryAnn” conjured up by the web of plaque in her brain. Gone are the kids calling her fatso, or all the reasons she’s created as to why she can’t go for a walk.
The rings dance atop her thighs as her right hand swipes her left knee and she keeps time with the music. She knows all the words. Yes, the words are running across the screen, but she is singing them. And her eyes, oh her eyes. They are alive. And in this moment I know, Mom is happy.
I look over to dad who is sitting by Holly on the couch; knowing that he feels these small moments of joy, but his response is much different.
“The end is coming closer and closer. I just look at her and think what might’ve been,” Dad’s left index finger makes a saw-like motion across his eyelid to curtail the tears that sit patiently waiting in line to fall. He tilts his bony ass to his left, his right hand pulling a worn handkerchief from his back pocket. This hemmed square, the caretaker of what-might-of-been-tears.
Yes, we know what-might-have-been.
Dad cancelled their subscription to the Chicago Jazz Orchestra last year. This year, it’s peace out to the Marriott Lincolnshire. With all of the ice cream, Mom can’t fit into her pants and Dad struggles to cajole her into the car now. Let’s not forget–if it wasn’t for miracle-worker-Jaime—mom would be without a shower for who knows how long? So that hair, girl. It’s interesting!
On the day of the their musical outings, Dad would wash the Honda in preparation for their drive into the city or to the Lincolnshire Marriott. Next, he’d ruffle through once translucent, now gray dry cleaner bags in the closet; his left hand holding the wooden hanger, possibly admiring pants he should’ve donated to Goodwill long ago. With his right hand he’d lift up the plastic making semi-circles waves in an effort to retain the integrity of the dry cleaning bag. His semi-circle hand gesture inside the plastic, a pageant girl awaiting her crown. I’d watch, bemused. Then, annoyed.
“Dad. Seriously! Who gives a shit if the bag breaks? You’re pants are from 1976 and you have pillows of delicately folded dry cleaner bags right there!” pointing to the pile next to his golf cleats and across from his shoe brush.
Laid out across the room, Mom would have black pants, her blue Ralph Lauren sweater Jaime found, and classic black loafers to round out her ensemble. She’d spend time applying her Bobbi Brown foundation, curling her hair, and finally selecting the lipstick she loved so much.
It makes me think about how rituals are so easily missed, taken for granted when dealing with any challenge or change. These seemingly simple rituals become who we are. They are part of our identity. For dad, those rituals were collective acts of love in a 54-year marriage.
Today, the calendar that hangs in the kitchen pantry with dad’s cryptic notes and stapled pages of upcoming musical theater dates that punctuates the bottom, serves as a reminder of what has been. The stacks of yellow playbills that line the downstairs basement bookshelf; artifacts of all the musicals they’ve attended in their 54 years together.
So, yea we get what-might-have-been. But there are gems along the timeline of any challenging journey. These fragments-help-just a little—deal with what is. Watching Mom enjoy Sound of Music, was my gem today. Sure, I cry. We cry. We have what-might-have-been-thoughts. Tears. We do, though, have a choice: To live in the sun or the clouds.
A line from the movie illustrates this point:
“You cry a little. And then you wait for the sun to come out. It always does.” –Maria
Or you cry A LOT, but as Mom would say, “You get on living. Otherwise, what’s the point?”