How it got written

The way this monologue got written was that while I was trying to help Mom & Dad, I wrote everything that happened in my journal as a way to hang on to my sanity.  At first I imagined turning it into a sort of Greek play, with the nurses as chorus.  That came out of Mother’s statement “If he just stopped being fed…”  I was tempted to say “That’s murder!” but was discouraged by the nurse.  As it turned out, I finally understood what was going on for Mom when my dog Bella was dying.  It is so hard to go on being with a loved one when they are dying and there’s nothing you can do about it.  There were moments when I just wished it would be over.  On the other hand, I was also able to experience my love for her in a new and wonderful way.  I wish I had been able to say to Mom “It must be so hard to be with Dad and not be able to do anything to make him feel better.”  So I did not turn it into a Greek tragedy, but just typed up the journal entries as usual.

Several years later, my friend Beverly and I went to a workshop at Rowe with Jean-Claude van Itallie.  It was called The Healing Power of Theater.  He taught us a form for a monologue.  It is spoken in the first person, in the present tense, do not use the word “and.”  What happens is the event you are narrating becomes very present.  A quite amazing technique.  I knew immediately that it was what to do with the journal material from that time.

So I rewrote my journal, in the first person, in the present tense, no “and.”  I read the result to a number of friends, and also used it in a Ritual of Letting Go.  In the process of rewriting, I discovered a number of things, in particular Mother’s use of the passive voice to avoid responsibility, and how she would make me wrong for asking a question rather than give me an answer.

Here is what I wrote in my journal after I got back from the Workshop, in December 1995:

December 4

I wake at about 5:00.  I have that tightness across the face and the slight nausea that let me know I haven’t had enough sleep. …  I remember a dream, just the final image. …

I give in and get up.  It’s dark outside…   [Marginal note: I’m too excited by the idea of working with the material from father’s death]  … I describe making tea, take it upstairs, light the candles, and begin to write.

It’s July first, 1986.  The call comes from my brother Jack…   [first draft of 4th July Monologue]     …..  [three pages]

I’ve been writing for an hour.  Time to stop and feed the birds.  This is fascinating and wonderful and I love it.  I realize that I couldn’t do the play about my father’s death because I couldn’t make up dialogue.  Working with the narrator in the present tense and giving the bits of dialogue I remember is the way to do it.  Hurray!