Monday, February 3, 2014

A tribute to a friend and mentor

It's story time again.

I have been thinking about Dorothy a lot lately. I miss her. It has taken 10+ years for me to realize how much someone meant to me. Not that I didn't feel pain when she died or sadness, but I was younger then and still full of my own hubris. I hadn't become an adult in the sense that we all know. I hadn't had to be a productive member of society who truly appreciates what he has. Now that I struggle with life the way most people do and can look back at how much better it was to float through the ether with no real troubles I realize what I am missing and how much people have shaped my life without me realizing it.

I now spend a lot of time thinking about the person I am and how I am affected by others. I am trying my best to get back to that ether but keep my feet on the ground. struggling to find the best of both worlds. But I digress, let me tell you about Dorothy because you need to know.

I met her when my family lived in Denver. She was a friend of my grandmother. Like most people I meet I was unsure of her and paid close attention to this stranger in my midst. You see I was only 5 years old. Strangers made and still make me uncomfortable, but Dorothy had magic, you see. My brother was like a dog, as I recall he took to her immediately he was all about new people. I was like a cat, easily over-stimulated and skittish of the new and overenthusiastic. I thought she liked him more at first because she kept her distance from me. But she just knew that she had to wait for me to come around. Such are the memories of the young. It was really good judgement from a woman who had dealt with people but it still seems a lot like magic.

We used to have game nights, on the same nights there was a new episode of the Golden Girls. She loved that show. She lived alone and had three adult children (she was a contemporary of my grandmother after all) but her kids are another story. Game nights usually consisted of trivial pursuit or Win Lose or Draw (because fuck pictionary, Win Lose or Draw was a TV game show hosted by Vicki Lawrence. Who hosted pictionary? nobody, that's who.) These evenings were full of laughter and dessert. If it was cake she got the middle piece, no arguments, if it was cheesecake she had the biggest piece and then there was the Frankenstein creation known as cherry slop...( I gave it that name, and it stuck) Cherry slop was a can of cherry pie filling covered in yellow cake mix with pads of butter on top then baked. It was the easiest dessert to make ever. I remember no specifics of these times and what we laughed at but we started game night when we met her and it stopped when she got sick. My memory blurs all of this and just says happy.

Now Dorothy wasn't just a happy person. She had a rough life in a lot of respects. I didn't know much about them but I knew one thing. All of her children suffered from alcoholism in some form or another. And she seemed like just underneath her good humor she had weathered a lot of storms.

She loved football, and stand-up comedy (as long as they didn't just yell at the audience) and Neil Diamond.
I don't think she could have been prouder of my choosing to do theatre. though I can't remember if she ever saw me on stage (once again floating in ether and hubris) but she was proud. She was a very dirty woman. Not physically, but her humor was very suggestively blue. She liked men. The half naked kind. The completely naked ones too I would assume. She was dirty but never vulgar. I remember one time during a game of win lose or draw she had to draw the phrase "rubber check".

She drew a condom.

My fifteen year old brother guessed it.

This is my family.

When she moved to Washington we missed her and then when tragedy struck our family and we had to move there was only one real option. Move to be near family. I was only ten at the time so that is what it felt like. It felt like we would move across the country away from all I knew but there would be someone there who made it all better.

She taught me how to play video games. Suck on that ageists. A contemporary of my grandmother was the first one to put a controller in my hand and teach me to play legend of Zelda on super Nintendo. I had played in arcades before but it was from her I learned the patience that is necessary for console gaming.

When she got sick my mother was her caretaker. she lived about a five minute walk for us and...

Dorothy had been a smoker her whole life, like I am sure she smoked as an infant. But she eventually quit. Story telling symmetry would like me to believe that it was at the same time her son David joined AA, but I am not sure of that. Anyhow, she lived several healthy years until she started complaining of pain in her leg and a doctor visit concluded she had lung cancer that had metastasized to her bones...

I didn't know what any of this meant but the life slowly drained from the sun as I watched over a period of months. Then she was gone.

I stood at her funeral and told all those present that a piece of every performance I gave would be for her. And that is still true to this day.

She was a big part of my history and I feel like I should tell you not just so you get a better picture of me, but because there is so much that I don't remember that I don't want to forget any more.

Thank you for letting me indulge in the past. And thank you Dorothy for everything you gave, I am a better person for your efforts.

With deep and abiding affection,