When Words are Not Enough

There enters music.

In musicals, there comes a point (18-20x per show), when the characters are so overwhelmed by emotion, saying what they feel is inadequate. So, naturally taking advantage of the orchestra at their feet, they start singing.

Throughout the song they’ll run a gamut  of emotions and pitches and volumes… if they start softly, they’ll crescendo in triumph or anger… if they start at full volume, they’ll soften into moments of introspection or fear… but at the end, they generally know what they have to do next.

Well… they are the “Luckiest People in the World.”

This Sunday, July 26, marks the first anniversary of my father’s passing. In the intervening year, the world somehow has had the audacity to keep turning, and my family has had to find ways to move on.

As I considered how to best commemorate this via today’s blog, all I heard rattling around in my brain were show tunes… and not only songs about loss (“No One is Alone” or “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again”). I heard songs of determination (“The Impossible Dream”), songs of whimsy (“Camelot”), silly songs (“Moses Supposes”), love songs (“It Only Takes a Moment”), angry songs (“Not a Day Goes By”), and heroic songs (“Into the Fire”).

My father was 6’6″… barrel chested… conservative… a country boy… and he LOVED musical theatre. The first “adult” (aka non-Disney) movie I remember watching with him was The Sound of Music. Although a good portion of the plot was not understood by my four-year-old-self, I do remember the songs. In particular, I remember how proud I was when I mastered the B-section of “Do-Re-Mi” (Sol-Do-La-Fa-Me-Do-Re, Sol-Do-La-Ti-Do-Re-Do); I couldn’t stop singing it to myself.

Being the enabler he was, he next purchased the Rogers and Hammerstein VHS collection and we worked our way through The King and I (loved it!), Carousel (too boring for little Meg), State Fair (one of my most beloved cassettes), and Oklahoma! (I liked the last song). In between, he showed me Singin’ in the Rain (I lost my voice imitating Lena Lamont), Hello Dolly! (my little sister would later beat me up for not telling her Michael Crawford played Cornelius, and Camelot (Richard Harris holds a special place in my heart forever).

I was hooked. I listened and watched anything he put before me… and over 20+ years, there was a lot of music we shared.

My father even went so far as to join the board of my school’s CAPPIES program, encouraging my theater-critic ambitions… all those stage-moms + my dad… his courage knew no limits. He also sat through many a voice lesson and nearly ALL my school concerts… as I said, a brave, brave man.

We went to my first Broadway show (at The Kennedy Center) when I was in high school. Thankfully, the Elton John score and colorful stagecraft of Aida made my mother a musical believer too! Every family vacation thereafter we’d try to go see something. And later, during college, every visit home usually included a show.

When we didn’t see each other (first due to university, and then to another cross-country move), I’d keep him in the know with my weekly reports (thanks Playbill!) of who was starring in what, and which of the newest musicals were worth the price of their soundtrack.

My father was a man of great culture and curiosity… and he encouraged the same within me (and my sister, and my mother… and maybe even the dogs, if they could appreciate a good Gershwin tune).

Because my father introduced me to musical theatre, I have learned that “witches can be right,” never to step on someone else’s cue, that beauty can change the heart of any beast, that there is more to life than “Great Big Stuff,” and that it’s always “A Grand Night for Singing.”

Now, I don’t know if the angel of music sings songs in my head… but I know my father still does. And every time I sing, or go to a show, or revisit one of those corny old flicks, I love and miss him with all of my heart… but I’m happy to have shared something so wonderful with him.

Parallel Lines

Is there anyone you’re drifting away from?

I looked at the randomly-generated question and felt a familiar weight in my stomach (you know, the one that all the butterflies settle on when they get tired of flapping about). I had been hoping for something sillier from this particular ask meme, but there it was… time to be serious.

I pondered, drumming my fingers against the desk. Certainly, as someone who has moved from place to place, there are people I once knew and whom I have since never spoken to again. Physical distance often causes emotional distance; out of sight and out of mind. And, although there are always social media platforms willing to help me track down play-pals of yesteryear… there are some people from whom I prefer to remain parted. And of course, there are a good handful of people whom I can safely say don’t want me anywhere near their lives as well.

We grow-up; we don’t change, I think, we just simply grow into ourselves. And sometimes in the course of growing up we realize that the people we knew when we were 13 are not the people we want to know at 28.

However, I have (as I’m sure many people do) certain acquaintances with whom I do not wish to be separated… even though it tends to take almost all of the effort on my part to persevere the relationship.

These are the titular “parallel lines.”

When I was in 6th grade, my geometry teacher joked that parallel lines were miserable because “no matter how close they are, they will never get together.”

As my readers doubtless have figured out, I have been blessed with some incredible friends. And within this group, I still count a few unique individuals with whom I rarely speak… and it is even rarer that I see them.

These are individuals whom, when I first knew them, were very close to me; I felt an affinity towards them and they to me (I think; I have eye-witness accounts to support this theory). There were many precious instances, in fact, when they and I were inseparable. We not only enjoyed each others’ company, but shared an understanding of the silence between words; we understood each other. It was intimate, at times frightening… and perhaps it was even a little delusional (a shared delusion, regardless).

However, in the course of growing up and moving away from the places where these friendships were formed, separations outnumber the reunions. Yet whenever I see these old friends again, our brief time together is joyous; in the space of 30 minutes we somehow manage  to compress the years apart to nothing.

But after these reunions? The silence returns. And I find myself questioning whether the relationships are worth struggling to keep. I dread the occasion when I will next see them and discover a void where once conversation flowed like a mountain stream. I do not want to thirst after their company for the rest of my life but, thus far, I do.

So then, what is the solution? Do I shrug my shoulders and murmur something about “ships in the night?” Do I let them disappear over the horizon towards new lands and take an ax to the ship-to-ship radio? Or is it better to stay my course, as a little parallel line to these friends, and simply cherish the closeness I feel to them, even if the “coming together” is, logically, never to occur?

The math, as before, remains a mystery…

Let’s Keep in Touch

When screaming into the void, isn’t it nice to think sound still echoes?

As a former military brat, the concept of “home” to me is… vague (at best). I don’t have a hometown; my elementary school chums would stare blankly at my Facebook profile were you to show it to them; when I go “home” it’s to wherever my family happens to be at the moment. I can’t remark on who lived on this street or where I used to go after school every day…

Impermanence is emblazoned somewhere on my coat of arms, I am certain.

Yet, in spite of the constant upheaval in my life, what keeps me grounded are those rare friends who, by some miracle, have decided that absence is not a barrier to communication. These are very special people; people who take the time to sit down and write cards; people who are brave enough to send me texts because “hey, I was thinking about you the other day.”

And to those people, I say THANK YOU.

As I mentioned earlier, “home” is where family is; in the last year, my little family has found itself broken and scattered about. We’re, all of us, trying to find “home.”

My life is so far removed from what it once was that some days it feels like my memories happened to someone else.

Thankfully, friends are the co-guardians of our past; they are the proof and protectors of those distant times (I’m not even 30, I know… but hey, I get this). They remind me of when I made them laugh, of when they made my smile, and when tears were shed together rather than in isolation.

I had originally intended to write about “silence”. In spite of the comfort silence can afford, I find nothing to be more disconcerting than sending out a message and receiving no signal that is was received; no acknowledgement that the other party in question cares about what I have to say.

It’s demoralizing… I hate that feeling of being ignored. Especially by someone for whom I care. However, I have resolved not to let silence deter me from making my feelings known. After all, when I am at my lowest, a kind word is a tonic; a message from a friend… can almost be a resurrection. Why should I not offer the same?

I don’ think we should be afraid, as we so often are, of saying “hey, I care about you, you dork* (*as in any exchange, know your audience).” Yet, at some point in our histories, we started to believe that an expression of this nature comes with a price; something must then be expected of the receiver, right? Kindness doesn’t come cheap?

Rubbish. If someone places a price on affection, drop ’em like the proverbial hot potato…it’s not worth burning your tongue for a taste of the sour-cream-smothered feast.

That being said, please do take two seconds somewhere in your day to respond with an initial “Thanks!” or “You too!” Silence is not golden; imagine if you complimented your friend’s shirt and they just stared at you, eyes distant and glassy… creepy.

So to those of you who are listening: You are the best. Thank you for being here for me. If I can ever help you (in any way that doesn’t result in jail or imminent death), please let me know.

Ta ta for now…