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Living longer than Papa

Papa died at 62, so I am now 3 years older than he ever was. It is weird, and some days feels like it is so unfair. Then I remember my friends who are 80, 90 and approaching 100 and tell myself to buck up and stop whining.

When I visit Ohio I like to see the places where I lived when I was a kid, but often don’t have a chance to do it. I remember the stories Papa used to share with us about what it was like for him growing up in Cleveland and the nearby areas. I wish I could share with him again. Or with my brothers who are gone, my mother and so many others. I saved some of his letters, and am so happy I did, but often wish I had all of them.

Some of the things I want to share with my son and his children are things they don’t care about at all. I am so lucky to be able to come and visit as often as I do get to come. I watched Lion the other day, the movie about a young man who grew up in India and ended up getting adopted by a couple in Australia, tracing his story across those continents. My life is so blessed.

I get to go to Trinita next week for a couple weeks, working with families from Philadelphia and the local area in Connecticut for a week each, so excited to be able to do it, this will be my 10th year. I need to remember to take each day as it comes, doing what I can and being aware of the needs of others, knowing and trusting that what I need to help will be given to me, if I only ask. I am asking!!! Thank you!

May 4, 1970

Every year as May 4th approaches, I  remember my freshman year at Kent and the eventful days of that first weekend in May. My brother was in jail in Ravenna, serving time for civil disobedience on campus and off the year before. The Vietnam War had escalated into Cambodia, and it was spring, so many of us were out on campus protesting the war. All weekend people had been protesting, and the Governor had called in the National Guard, but mostly they just stood around and cute girls put flowers in their rifles and encouraged them to make love, not war.

That May 4th Monday morning, I had Geography at noon, not one of my favorite classes, and there was a protest by the Taylor building, which was on my way, so I went to the protest.

The Taylor building is at the top of a hill, and the valley in front of it is a natural rallying spot. There were temporary buildings there just beyond the foot of the hill, where ROTC classes were held, and the Guard were gathered there. People were all around the edges of the hill, and some protesters took their T shirts off so they could pick up the tear gas containers and toss them back at the Guard who had fired them at us. Between that and the natural flow of air, the tear gas was having no effect.

Protesters were shouting that the Guard should go home, that we should get out of Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. The Guard fixed their bayonets and proceeded to march through the protesters and up around the Taylor building. The protesters just moved aside for them, and came back to the center of the hill after the Guard marched around the top of the Taylor building and out of sight. It was a lovely day and more and more people kept joining the protest, or at least looking on.

Quite a few people went up this side of the Taylor building to see what was going on. After a bit we heard what sounded like capguns. Soon people came back from the top of the hill and everyone was shouting. Noone seemed to know what was going on, I thought, ‘it couldn’t be real ammo, maybe they shot blanks.’ My brother’s roommate, whom I had met the year before, came from over the hill in my direction – I got his attention and asked him what was going on. There were 2 or 3 ambulances at the foot of the hill, and they were starting their engines and working their way up the hill to the other side of Taylor. He said, ‘each of those ambulances can hold 8 people. They won’t be enough!’ I said, ‘They used real bullets?” I couldn’t believe it. The only thing the protesters were throwing was the tear gas that had been fired at us!

People continued to gather, but when the Guard marched back down the hill, the crowd stayed to the side for a lot longer. At some point my psychology prof, who had his gym shoes in his hand, went up to the guard and spoke to the superior. Then he spoke to us: ‘I felt I could talk to them because I wasn’t unarmed, I had my shoes in my hand. I asked if we could sit and nonviolently protest, and he said yes, so please sit down.’ We all sat, then he asked for volunteers to go get some sandwiches from one of the nearby dorms, as we had missed our lunch and weren’t thinking too clearly right now. I volunteered, as did a couple others, among whom was the 16 year old runaway whose picture won a Pulitzer Prize. I didn’t catch her name, and when the trays were ready, she was nowhere to be seen. I guess she took that opportunity to go back home. When we got back to the hill, where we had all been sitting 15 minutes earlier, the center of the hill was empty and the Guard were lined up around the perimeter. My jacket and books were on the ground where I had been sitting, surrounded by empty space. I didn’t think I could just go get them, so I ate a sandwich and then went back to my dorm. Helicopters were buzzing the campus and started announcing that everyone should stay indoors.

I went to my room and everyone was listening to the radio, which was announcing that someone had fired on the Guard. I said, ‘That isn’t true, they shot at the protesters.’ One of the girls shushed me, saying another of the girls on the floor had a brother in the Guard. I shouted, ‘They shot at us! No Guard were killed, we were!’ They continued to shush me and I shouted, “I was there! We didn’t fire on them, they shot at us!’ I ran out of the building, but the helicopters were buzzing overhead and there was nowhere to go. Then they announced they were closing the campus and were bussing people who lived nearby to Cleveland. so I ran to my room, packed a bag, and went to where they were loading the busses.

The highway to Cleveland runs right past the exit to my house, so I asked the bus driver if he could drop me off at the gas station, where I could call my father. Several other girls lived nearby as well and asked if my father would drop them off, and I agreed for him.

Pay phones still worked in those days, so I called Papa and he came out for us. Later, he told me he and Mama had just gotten back from trying to come pick me up, as he had an old press pass and thought they might let him in on the strength of it but when they got off the freeway at route 43, the cars were backed up the entire way to Kent (about 6 miles), and the radio announced they were bussing the nearby students to Cleveland, so he turned around and came home. As they came in the door, the phone rang and it was me asking him to come pick me and the other kids up. They weren’t releasing the names of those shot yet.

One of the other girls lived in Northfield, so Papa asked her for directions. She kept saying, ‘Oh, you should have turned there’ after we had passed her turn, but we eventually found our way to her door. After we had delivered all the girls to their homes and were on our way to ours, Papa said, “If you ever give directions like that . . ” I got the impression I would be disowned!

We never did our finals that semester. Some classes graded us on what we had done so far, some sent for a final essay, some just gave us a pass. My psychology professor gave me a C based on what I had done so far that year. I tried to convince him that I had learned a great deal about psychology that couldn’t be gotten from books that weekend, but he was unimpressed.

Papa didn’t want me to go back to Kent the following year, because he thought it would be very strict, with curfews and forbidding protest in the future. I loved that that was his reasoning, not fear for my safety – which was probably in there, too, but he knew that wouldn’t work. I continued at school, started auditioning and discovered the theatre folk, meeting people who are lifelong friends, some of whom had been on the other side of Taylor and shared their stories on a later May 4th, but that is it for now.

4 dead in Ohio. When I was waitressing that summer at Manner’s Big Boy, some of the counter customers thought they should have shot more kids. I couldn’t wait on them. My boss cut me some slack. They were probably the same ones who put ketchup on scrambled eggs. Be seeing you.

Looking for work again.

Being an actor is not an easy life. When you get work, nothing is finer, but we spend most of our time looking for work, which anyone who has had time unemployed or underemployed knows is very frustrating to say the least.

To be unemployed from my straight job, so I have to look for that kind of work as well as acting work, is depressing. It doesn’t get easier as you age, either!

I love ushering at Radio City Music Hall, and at the Helen Hayes, but both jobs are on hiatus now, the latter for renovation and the former because the Christmas Spectacular ended on Jan. 2nd. I also work for World Strides, a group that gives students and their chaperones educational tours through NYC (and Philly, Boston and DC but I don’t work there), and their busy time is from Feb. through June, so I hope they will schedule me a lot, but there are no guarantees.

I started working with a day care agency that works mainly with pre schoolers, and I love it, but I find I can’t do as much as I used to be able to do, so can’t work full time for them, and they have others who can, so I only get sub work here and there. Argh! I always thought I could fall back on waitressing, but they hire younger folk for that, too.

I need to get it together and get back to auditioning regularly, but I caught a cold from the kids and don’t have the energy today. Sigh. So it goes. Be seeing you!

Happy Feast of the Epiphany and Happy New Year!

This past year has been another interesting one.

I had Mohs surgery on my nose last December, with surgery to disconnect the skin graft from my forehead on the 15th of Jan., and spent most of January and February recovering.  My favorite weird memory from that time was scratching my nose and feeling it in my forehead (before the disconnection). Daver had his second kidney stone surgery on Jan. 12, but it went much better than the first one (November, 2015) and he has been feeling a bit better since.

My recovery from the hip surgery in June of 2015 was so good that I stopped using even a cane by the end of June, 2016. I was able to usher for The Humans at the Helen Hayes Theatre, from the end of January until the theatre closed for renovation at the end of July. Trinita was terrific, as usual, with the theme being the Door of Mercy we had a very good time.

I went to lots of job sites looking for work, and finally got an usher job at Radio City Music Hall for the Christmas Spectacular, but that job ended on Jan. 2nd this year, so back to looking for work! I also got approved to work at a day care center, so have been able to do a few days at that job as well. I love the preschool kids, but they are energy absorbers in a big way and I am not as young as used to be! I continue doing Ellis Island Stories when we get bookings, and audition for other acting work as often as I can. The life of an actor is not simple, that’s for sure.

I added a new job with WorldStrides, in addition to Field Specialist (sort of a tour guide for groups), being an OSC, On Site Coordinator at our hotels, working with the groups of students and their chaperones, staying overnight at the hotel with them so as to communicate with the staff at the hotel for them. I got to visit Arlington, VA and DC for the training as well, though I work out of NYC. That work is mostly from February to June, so I am looking forward to doing it again this year. And there is a summer show with the Rockettes, so I am hoping to continue working at Radio City when they have shows.

Two of my nephews got married this year, and I was able to be there for both weddings, what a delight! I can still dance, amazing! Jacob and Holly got married on June 4 and Eric and Beth just got married on Dec. 30th – Jacob says having a family wedding every 6 months is great! Bart, my nephew is the only unmarried, but he is graduating from Kent State in May, perhaps that will do . . . As of August I have a new great niece, Aurora Sharon Drumm, I hope to get to see her and her big brother Michael Robert Drumm before he turns 4, as I haven’t seen him in person since he was 3 months old!

I continue reading to the kids at the local school with BookPALS, volunteering at VITA at the Actors’ Equity building, working for peace and justice with Pax Christi Metro New York and being good, doing good, being a power for good with the Missionary Cenacle Family in my role as assistant regional custodian of the MCA, the lay branch to which I belong. My parish is hosting the annual Peacemaking through the Arts program of PCMNY on January 29th from  2:30 to 4:30pm – that’s Most Holy Redeemer and Nativity Parish, 173 East 3rd Street, between Ave. A and B in Manhattan, so I hope to see you all there! We also have a talent show on Feb. 25th so come to that too, we always have fun.

 

Dreams are amazing

I used to think I didn’t have much of an imagination, but then I started remembering my dreams more regularly. They are filled with wonderful  images and ideas, some from books and movies I’ve watched recently, some with places I’ve lived in the past, some with all of the above all together! I wake from them feeling reinvigorated, though I usually have no idea what the message is from my unconscious, I know there is one, and that is enough for me.

I am 64 this year, and that brings to mind old Beatles’ song lyrics, feelings I haven’t accomplished what I desire or could have dreamed up when I was in my 30s. Then I remember how frustrated I was in my 30s and know I have to do what I can, and not worry about what ‘should have been’ as if any of this is in my control.

Hanging out with wonderful folk in their 90s reminds me I am a young chick in comparison, and if I just follow their example and do what I can, all will be well.

Taking the time to listen to my dreams, reflect on them, that helps too.

Dealing with Skin Cancer

Having fair skin, as I have written before, means dealing with skin cancer. Over the last twenty years I have had moles on the way to melanoma, but thanks to the vigilance of my dermatologists, none farther than 6 on a scale of one to ten, ten being melanoma, and most being in the 1 to 5 range, and countless basal cells. You should see my chart – two inches thick at least! Two basal were extensive, requiring all day Mohs surgery, the first on my nose almost 18 years ago, and the most recent right next to that one, which had grown under the old scar and required me to lose all the surface skin of my nose except around my nostrils! I then had to have a transplant from my forehead to recover my nose, and will be having derm abrasion on my forehead to clean up that scarring on Tuesday.

Being an actor with visible scars all over my nose and forehead, over 60 and hard to cast as it is, makes life that much more challenging. Visiting home bound friends in their 80s and 90s who keep dying off puts my problems in perspective. While there’s life, there’s  hope.

Hey, anyone out there looking for a face for skin cancer awareness? I am up to date with my SAG-AFTRA membership and available!!!

Getting Acting Work

Today I worked as a stand in on The Good Wife, which is fun because the cast and crew are terrific, and I always learn a lot. It was a mixed bag today, because the show has announced that this is the last season and things are winding down, some of the regular stand ins are leaving the show and there were some sad faces at certain points in the day. But the stories are still terrific, so there was a lot of laughter and joy working with people who have been on the show during its history since 2009. I haven’t been hired as often as others, but some of the cast and crew remembered me, which is always encouraging.

I also had rehearsal tonight for a staged reading of Blood Sisters by Robin Rice Lichtig, which will be done on Wednesday March 21st at 7pm at Theatre for A New City, Second Avenue at 10th street, make reservations at MusTaTea.com/365-women as it will fill up! Several playwrights participated in a project to write a play a day last year about real women, written by women and some of them got together to get these a reading in hopes of getting them produced in full at some point. Our director is Lori Kee, who is wonderful, so I am very excited about this one. It is based on the Dominican nuns who protested nuclear weapons by going into a missile site  and pounding on the cement lid and pouring their blood on it and were given two to three year sentences for this nonviolent action. I get to play Sr. Ardeth Platte, so my peacemaking and acting are coming together on this one. Thank you, Sr. Ardeth, for your life and work for peace and justice – I think you will be pleased at the challenge we offer our audience.