The July 4 monologue describes a weekend with my parents while my father was dying in July 1986. I wrote everything that happened in my journal to help me ground and keep me sane. I thought of trying to turn it into a play, but realized I had no idea what Mom or Dad would say other than the quotes I had written down. In a workshop at Rowe Conference Center, “The Healing Power of Theater” with Jean Claude van Italie, I learned a form of monologue which was really powerful. I rewrote my journal entries in this form.
Typing up the July 4 monologue in July 2009, I’m seeing how crazy-making Mother was, how all my attempts to help were slashed and made wrong, how totally cowed I was, how unable to speak truth, barely able to think it even. When I get the whole thing typed up, I want to take it to Caryn, read it out loud and say the things I wish I could have been able to say. (“I don’t like being distrusted.” “Are you trustworthy? Why did Dad have to go to the hospital? Because you were too drunk to take care of him.”)
I told Caryn about how I would speak to the July 4 monologue, and she had me say something specific, so I said in answer to “I don’t like to be distrusted” — “Excuse me, but you’re not trustworthy.” She asked how it felt in my body — upright and strong — and then said that my vulnerability and grief should be there too. She said it was like a chord, with all the different notes. I really liked the idea, but didn’t see how to do it. But I tried “Excuse me, but you’re not trustworthy” again, and I could feel that it was softer, that the grief was there. She wants me to practice having both strength and vulnerability.
I read Elizabeth the July 4 monologue with comments from the future. We both laughed in places. Before I started I described myself as a “wimp”, unable to speak truth to them, ashamed of how much I was cowed by them. Elizabeth said not to put myself down, that she was impressed with my patience with those two impossible people. She said not only did I do MY best to help, but I did THE best that was possible, given that nothing would work with a passive-aggressive alcoholic like Mom. She was only sorry I was so hurt by it. I was really touched and started crying. I really did try my hardest to make things OK for two impossible people in an impossible situation.