In Laurie Anderson's film Heart of a Dog, she recounts an episode from her childhood she'd told people about a number of times. While retelling it one day, unsettling details she'd forgotten came rushing back. In concluding the piece, she says:
...and that's what I think is the creepiest thing about stories. You try to get to the point you're making, usually about yourself or something you learned, and you get your story and you hold on to it and every time you tell it, you forget it...more.
When I first started writing, it was an exercise in trying to find a way to describe the time when I was 5 years old that my parents gave me away for a year (Strangers With Chips).
Those events cast an occasionally overwhelming shadow over me but I managed to stay ahead of it. When I did talk and later wrote about it, my shorthand became effective to the point where I edited a fair bit of detail and emotion from the story. By the time my father passed away in August this year, it was no longer foremost in my thoughts.
At the reception following the funeral, I managed a few perfunctory chats and sandwiches before trading the hubbub of the church basement for the less populated parking lot. One and then another of my brothers joined me and we chatted a while before I decided I should go back inside.
Before I could leave the lot, an aunt appeared. She had a woman with her who I didn't recognize. My aunt told me Linda had been looking for me. I gave Linda the least confused smile I could as I struggled to place her. She looked small, unwell, and definitely on the verge of something.
As my brain went to work trying to figure out who this was, she choked out that she hoped I could forgive her for all the pain she'd caused me. Please forgive me. I'm sorry. I'm so so sorry.
Linda. Linda. Lin-da. And then it hit me. This shadow was one of the people my parents had given me to, only now, she was standing in mine.
What's the etiquette for responding to a request for forgiveness that's 45 years in the making? From someone who's tracked mud through your brain and left without cleaning up? As she stood there swaying, fighting back tears, I told her it was fine, everything was fine, it couldn't have been too bad since I was still here. She continued to whisper "I'm sorry".
I'm not sure which of us stepped closer first but somehow our exchange led to a hug and for me, an exit strategy. I gave her what I think was a reassuring smile and continued to nod and smile as I turned and walked away.
It probably shouldn't have been such a revelation to me that this story wasn't mine alone but the whole encounter surprised me. I hope she found in it the peace she was looking for.
Now I'm left to wonder - am I going to have to run into her ex-husband at some point and go through a version of this with him? While that may never happen, if it does, it will likely be just after I've forgotten...more.
Last night, I went to see Jane Lynch perform at our local theatre in her show "See Jane Sing". It was definitely a fun evening and made even better for Jane bringing her pal Kate Flannery (Meredith from the US version of The Office) along for the ride. They played off each other beautifully and the jazz quintet backing them up did a great job too.
I went with my friend Jane who also enjoyed it. While I was able to mostly focus on the show, I remained on alert as well. I've often said that in an emergency, I can pretty much be counted on to simply walk away or step over you and pretend I don't know you. As it happens, that's an idle threat on my part. Thankfully, nothing happened that tested me for a third time.
My event going history can be interesting, depending on what interests you. If medical emergencies are your thing, this might be just what you've been waiting for.
Last week, I was very excited to go see John Grant in concert with Villagers opening up. It was a stellar show at a good, smallish venue and friend Jane, her husband and a friend of his were all on hand. After a stunning set by Villagers, Jane's husband and friend decided they wanted to be closer to the stage for the main course. It was blisteringly hot in the club so she and I stayed more toward the back. We got to chat for a minute with Conor O'Brien of Villagers after their set and he was lovely and charming.
Both acts sounded as good or better than their recordings which is always exciting. As anyone who loves live music knows, there's magic that can't always be captured by a recording.
Mr. Grant started with several songs from his new album all of which translated beautifully and kept the crowd enthralled. Midway through, he sang one of my favourites "Queen of Denmark" and all was really right with the world. Just as he was finishing that song and ahead of another of my favourite songs "GMF" (I'd already bought the GMF t-shirt!), it happened.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jane step to the side and I thought she must be vying for a better view. The lurch forward following that side step signalled something was wrong. She fell into the guy standing in front of us and hit the deck! She'd fainted and hit the floor pretty hard but somehow didn't hit her head. Somebody helped me get her upright and as I was trying to walk her out, she slumped again. I managed to half drag and carry her out of the throng toward the back where there were paramedics.
We got her out into the air and after sitting for a short time and getting checked over, she was much better. The paramedic didn't want her standing back in the heat however as she was the fourth person to have fainted that night (how hot was it?!). The chair was moved to just outside the (open) venue doors so we could finish watching the show. I stayed with her while her husband and his friend remained blissfully unaware from their prime positions stage-side.
While my memories from the first half of the concert are brilliant and vivid, the second half was not quite what I'd envisioned. Jane is fine now and feels terrible about having imposed but I'm just glad it wasn't more serious. I may have to follow Mr. Grant on tour to properly see the second half of the show however.
When things like this happen, it leads to a certain amount of reflection. If you're me, that reflection is directly back to another concert several years ago that I'd looked forward to for a long time. Bjork was midway through a stellar set on a warm summer night on Toronto Island. I felt the show was pretty magical, that is, until my friend Lorena fainted. The second half of that show was spent making sure she was okay and tamping down the urge to dump her body into the water and go back to the show. I'm still waiting for a make up date with Bjork. And Lorena? Where have you been? I haven't heard from you in ages!
To be clear, none of these situations involved copious amounts of alcohol, sometimes things just happen. The take away (but not so far as to a hospital) from a night of fun with me is that if anyone is going down, it's more likely to be you than me! My role is simply to help and to leave with half a dream fulfilled. Apparently, it's what I do.