I am not a private person. I like to talk about myself too much, not because my life is so fascinating, but because I have a compulsion to talk about whatever is currently on mind, no matter how mundane. If you give me the chance, I’ll bore you with details of my latest weight loss ideas, the electronic gadget I’m thinking about buying, what I just cooked for lunch or even what size underwear I bought at Wal-Mart.
Last summer I made a series of videos about such mundane aspects of my life as going to a movie or riding my bike. And it’s not like I’m able to spin it into some amazing anecdote. I’m sure if a random person comes across those videos, they will most likely watch it, shrug and say, “What was that?”
Sometimes I think I just never outgrew that stage in life when you come home from school and say, “Mommy, mommy, look at this picture I made at school!” as I hand over this pathetic still life made from shapes of colored paper, crayons and glue.
What’s most difficult about this now is that many of the details of my life revolve around illness and family. The details are mostly private and should be. Many of the things I do feel like sharing, should really be saved for personal conversations, not public postings on the web. But still I do want to share a few things. I can’t help myself.
The other night I was sitting in a bar having a drink with a couple of people I had met through meetup.com. The subject turned to my situation with my mother. I was talking about my future plans, how I’d like to return to making theatre and teaching, but would have to wait. One of the women asked me, “So, you are going to do that after your mother dies?”
It was honestly a relief that she spoke of it like that. Her grandmother had died of Alzheimer’s so perhaps she just knew it was alright to talk about it bluntly. It’s much harder to talk when you are trying to be subtle.
I’ve recently had questions from people like, “When are you coming to LA?” or “When will you be back in New York to teach?” The answer is something that just doesn’t feel polite to say.
“When my mother dies.”
But of course, I search for other ways to say that. “When I’m not needed here anymore.” Or, “In a year or two.” Unfortunately that leads to other questions and draws the person in deeper, so that as some point I need to say what I wish I said up front, “I’m here till my mother dies.” And at that point it seems more like a rebuke than simple information.
There is such a terrible mix of feelings around taking care of someone who is dying of dementia. You love them. You want them to be comfortable and happy as much as possible. You want them to be better. You want them to be able to talk to you again. You want them to stop going through your pockets. You want them to stop pulling your hair. You wish you could roll back the clock a couple of years. You cherish simple moments when you get to hug them and you know that your presence is making their life better. And you wish you could jump forward a couple of years when this will all be over and you can start up your life again.
So if you ask me something about my future and I say, “After my mother dies.” I’m not trying to shock you or upset you. I’m certainly not trolling for sympathy. I’m trying to get that part of the conversation over, to let you know as succinctly as possible what my situation is here and why I’m not teaching in New York, playing poker in Arizona or hanging out in LA. I still want to talk about it, if you let me. I just don’t want to be coy about it.
However, I also want to talk about low carb diets, behavioral economics, evolution based learning systems, poker, and of course, improv. Oh and I may also tell you about the grill I bought last night to cook brats, or the strange rattle in my car, or how I got myself hooked on black coffee and now have to quit cold turkey.