I’m not too demanding. I don’t think. Of myself, sure, yes, super demanding. Of others, I’m easy. Truly. I’ll take it as it comes. I don’t expect. Have expectations. If I receive something, cool. If not, I’m okie dokie. I was raised to not expect. To not require. To not ask. To not need. I was a very unneedy four-year-old. Thank G-d for my sister. My older sister who was my step sister, but we never said step, we were sisters. She gave and gave and gave. Unlike our parents. The one’s we shared. She called them the P’s. Her Dad/my step-father and my mom/her step-mom. The Ps were…distracted, narcissistic, otherwise occupied? He had rules. She had impatience. We followed and dodged as best we could. Her I could rely on and value and enjoy and be grateful for. She didn’t need gratitude or thanks. She wanted to give to me. Giving to me was like receiving herself. That was her nature. She saved me. I wouldn’t be me without her. The other me I might have been without her would have lived in a dark cave eating seeds. If there were seeds to eat. Meryl. I’m going to say her name.
Remember View Masters? Did you have one? What did you view? National Parks? Big cities? Foreign lands? Hula dancers? Volcanoes? Dogs, cats, horses? Probably. Depending on who you were, where you lived, what your frame of reference was. Suburban, urban, rural. City, Mountain, lake, ocean, meadow.
My mind is going to wander. Doesn’t yours? My words may make you think of something and you may think of that thing and then, hopefully, come back to my words till the next thought. My feelings aren’t hurt. You’re human. I’m human too. We have this big three-layered brain. Ancient Reptilian, Newer Mammalian and Brand Spanking New Cerebrum. We’re bound to use all three parts.
Before View Masters, there were Stereoscopes. A friend had one and gave it to me. I was working on another show about someone whose grandmother had an antique store and we were looking for one and my friend had one and sent it to me.
The Stereoscope predates the View Master by a hundred years. 18 something.
Holding it up.
It takes two images, depicting the left and right-eye view of the same scene. You see things differently out of each of your eyes. Each of your eyes is having its own experience of the world, rarely appreciated, but true. What our left eye could tell our right. Our left hand, perhaps. Our right foot. We are divided in two. Even our hearts. Does my left ventricle love as much as my right? Perhaps that was the problem all along. Absent wholeheartedness.
My mind sprinkles breadcrumbs as it/I wander.
A stereoscope. This stereoscope. It is very delicate, fragile. Breakable. We sometimes don’t appreciate breakability. How easy it is to break something, someone. The stereoscope was an early home entertainment system back before radio – 1920, television – 1938, computers – 1975-ish, walkmans - 1979, ipads – 2012. Back when your aunt or your sister or you might play the piano on an evening. Back before electricity. Gaslights or candles, your aunt playing or maybe your father. If you have one. Or dead silence. Everyone else asleep and you are staring through your stereoscope because there are so many things you want that you don’t have, that you only have in images. Like a dog, or a cat, or a father.
Oliver Wendell Holmes made a new version in 1861. Yeah, that Oliver
Wendell Holmes. Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. They got Olver Wendell Holmes. We get Amy Coney Barrett. Shaped by his experience fighting in the Civil War – for the North – Holmes insisted “The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.” He considered the Constitution as experiment, “as all life is an experiment.”
This text. These words I am saying are an experiment. I like that. That is helpful.
All this jurisprudence and somehow, Holmes had time to re-invent the stereoscope. Now there are apps, that kind of sort of claim to do the same thing. Do they? What’s an app? Why do I have so many? Applications. The action of putting something into operation. Also, a formal request. “An application to leave.” My Dad could have done that. Or I could have. Could I have? Appealed? To him?
Bread. Crumbs. This show will not be all that easy to follow, I’ll admit, it wasn’t that easy for me to follow. But the pieces arrived and I accepted them as writers tend to do without too much question. We write what we hear. Did you know that?
So, my real father I only experienced for 14 or so years. Probably most actively for 12 years. The nuclear part was only till 3. So…nine years of visitation as it is known. Court sanctioned time with Dad. Our differences always more noteworthy than our similarities. I was more naturally compatible with my step-father. More on that. Dad was a manly man. He had played professional baseball and became a salesman or that was how I understood what he did. It wasn’t important, he could still go about town as a former player and take us to Red Sox and Bruins and Patriots and Celtics games. He could walk into any arena and we’d – my sister and I – would walk in with him. Spinning turnstiles. Turnstiles always make me think of my dad. Sit behind Homeplate or wherever close to the action in any sport. I was a princess. Felt like a princess. Not with the emphasis on the female part of the word, but on the privilege. I liked his/my privilege. The blind woman who sat behind home plate near us listening on a transistor radio in case she missed something. Talking to Frank Malzone at third base. Other players he’d played with who were still playing. Being a part of his scene. I wasn’t conscious it was all male. I was comfortable.
He liked to watch golf when we weren’t at a sporting event. He never threw a ball at me or invited me to play anything. I don’t remember any tips. I think because I think because he knew I was female. My femaleness mattered to him in a way it never mattered to me then or since.
Mini golf. We went mini golfing. He never gave me any advice on how to putt. Horseback riding. No input. Just…opportunity, I guess.
Once. One time. I was on a horse. I had this Greek cap on my head. Blue cap. With a brim. I think it was Greek somehow. Maybe he had bought it for me. And I was on the horse. Western saddle. I only know how to ride western. But the trainer or whoever still had the reins. I’m like 7. So I’m on the horse and suddenly the horse takes off running. Fast. Really fast. The trainer loses the reins. I grab the horn and my hat falls in front of my eyes, so I can’t see anything and I don’t know where I’m going. And people are kind of screaming. And the horse is running. And then. He dashes into the barn and stops cold. I’m still on him. Holding the horn. People rush around us and pull me off. I don’t actually remember where my dad was at that moment or what he did or if he hugged me. No clue. This is my horse story about my dad, but he’s kind of not in the story. I’m there with the horses because he took me there in his Thunderbird. But he’s otherwise not in the story.
The watching golf was something he wanted to do that he never asked me one way or another but I was perfectly content to do with him because I was always making an effort across our differences.
He bought me this pink umbrella for Christmas. Small context, he was Catholic and kept that to himself. He shared baseball. He didn’t share being Catholic. I was as interested in that, but he wasn’t interested in sharing other than making Christmas and Easter for us, his Jewish children. We would go to his place. Meaning he would pick us up in his T-bird and take us to his apartment for Christmas. He would make the tree and everything by himself. It would just be there. I feel like maybe I went to bed and when I woke up there was a decorated Christmas tree. I was very interested in the tinsel and I would have liked to put the tinsel on that tree, but he liked to do it himself. Or, whether he liked it or not, that was how he did it. We’d have gotten him presents. My mom must have helped and he got us presents and there may have been some from cousins. He had like 8 brothers and sisters. I never even met them all but I knew my grandmother. So, the umbrella. He was super excited. Kept saying just wait till you see what Santa brought you. I was already down there was no real Santa, but I didn’t argue. I opened the package and in my hand was a pink umbrella. An umbrella like for rain that was pink. I kind of hated it on sight. I wasn’t a femmie pink sort of person in any case. I like rain. I didn’t feel the need for an umbrella. He was so excited. So, I tried to act excited. Not sure how well I succeeded. Not sure he remembered it. I never forgot. It became the perfect metaphor for when people don’t get me. I say to myself. Oh, it’s a pink umbrella. So, I guess it was a good gift. A warning. He’d do visitation a few more years. Meet a woman, Catholic, marry her, make a Catholic baby boy and abandon us without saying goodbye.
Toni Morrison describes not having a father like not having an arm. She is talking about a male character not having a father. I think for a woman not having a father is like not having a part of your heart. It’s like not having armor. A protective coating to wear in the world. You’re just there nerves exposed, raw.
Yes, I had two fathers. One left me when I was fourteen. The other died when I was 21. Not speaking to me. We’ll get to that.
It matters to not have a father. Fathers are big.