The Waiting is the Hardest Part…And the Most Revealing

Well after a self-imposed hiatus which included my moving half way across the states this summer and relocating my life – I am back to the show. I was almost getting worried there for a second wondering what I’d done. But I am starting to find that breaks from the show have never really proven to be a bad thing. Because when the muse returns, she returns in a big way… usually right as I’m drifting off to sleep. Like last night.

I started thinking of this one song and started having (HAVING) to sing it to myself out loud at about 11:00pm, (sorry, Neighbors), so I could remind myself how to make the changes I want. Of course that led me to other bits and pieces and before I knew it I was out of bed and into my trusty red little notebook to get it all out of my brain and onto the page before it disappeared forever.

I am so happy to be feeling the inspiration again. I don’t think I could have finished it before now.

There are also interesting coincidences, if you believe in that, or I could say synchronicities, that are proving very helpful to the storyline of the show. These synchronicities appear in the form of boxes.

Life in a box.

Life in a box.

When you move back near family, not only do you unpack your own boxes but you become the recipient of all the unsolicited shit that everyone has been holding for you; holding way more than you knew you ever owned. So now I am delving into the past through pictures and childhood items; artwork, reviews, letter, and tutus. What am I gonna do with the tutu? I can’t throw it away! It’s been waiting inside a box for 20+  years for me. How would you feel to live in a box for 20+ years only to be freed into a dumpster?

Tutus aside, the biggest discoveries are the letters. Letters from sisters and brothers and mothers and fathers. Wonderful letters written in a time when people still put pen to paper and stamp to envelope. I am grateful to have been born before the public school system decided to stop teaching cursive writing to grade-schoolers.

My father wrote letters. I am being introduced in part to the man he was before he was the man I remembered. This is more valuable to me than gold or little red tutus. To be witness to his handwriting which bears resemblance to my own brings me into a silent reverence. To see his lyrical, cursive, flowing handwriting stops the outside world. He is alive again – for the moment.

For once I am grateful to my mother for never throwing anything away.

The letters are why it was necessary to wait. The letters. Patiently waiting to reveal their life within. Waiting. The waiting was good.

Thank God I waited. The letters knew. And so, now, will the writing.

So – what are you waiting for?


What Moment did “Little You” Never Forget?

I knew it was an important moment and one I needed to burn into my brain. And as I stood at the end of the narrow concrete walkway up to my new front door – an apartment front door – holding a small box, I whispered to myself repeatedly: “I’m four years old.”

“I’m four years old. I’m four years old.”

Red Head in a Box

Photo by

This was the day I moved from Houston to Fort Worth, Texas with Mom, my brothers – and my new step-father. A day I obviously never forgot.

At that young age I knew, (even if I didn’t know I knew), my life would never be the same and must be mentally recorded.

Now it occurs to me that I can’t really remember much before that. I can recall flashes of the “black house” (as it was nick-named) that I lived in with Mom and Dad. I have mental snapshots of a living room with a nondescript couch. There are pictures of my toddler self being held by my big brother in our pool.

We had a pool? Of course we did. I know because of the pictures.

But I don’t remember life before “I am four years old.”

I don’t remember anyone telling me I was going to be moving. I don’t remember… being told anything really.

I just remember the sidewalk and the box… and that moment; a life with a different Man of the House.

In the ’70s we hadn’t yet arrived at the “Oprah Consciousness”. No one was really that concerned with how the kids would handle the big move (not to mention a divorce). Or perhaps, if there was concern there was no readily available mapping system set in place everyday on ABC at 4pm for How to Transition the Kids.

Was that Sidewalk Moment my way of transitioning myself? Taking a mental snapshot? Talking myself through this turning point? “Don’t forget this. It’s important. I don’t know why. But I must remember.”

What mental “snapshots” did you take as a child to mark a moment of great importance?

I sit here writing and I think, “I am forty-something years old. I am forty-something years old….”

It doesn’t have the same ring.

Perhaps I feel am not moving. Or more accurately, moving too much. No Sidewalk Moment but too many sidewalks. Box replaced by a kitchen table, a glass of Spanish wine, and an nearly finished musical.

If you could travel back and tell your four year old self something, what would it be?

I would kneel beside that little girl, watch her watching her new front door whispering her mantra…

…and whisper in her ear…

…it’s good to be four.

How Does Dad Prepare Daughter for…?

When I was about fourteen years old Dad started saying this funny (weird funny) thing to me:

“Baby, I’m not going to be around much longer.”


What the hell is a fourteen year old supposed to say in response to her Dad’s own prediction of his nearing departure from his life…and hers?

My teenage response was usually, “DAD STOP SAYING THAT!”

Obviously and understandably it would upset me when he said it. He told me when we were alone just sitting around. But it was always said seriously and soberly. He left misery out of it. It was just plain fact. No emotion. Dad-like.

Fact: I’m dying. And soon.

Photo from http://www.The Upbeat

He didn’t have cancer or a terminal disease. He hadn’t been given a death sentence by his doctor. He wasn’t suicidal. There was no depression or emotional abuse connected to these few moments. He was an active man. He had many friends. He and his wife, my step-mother, went out two-steppin’ often.

He just knew he was a gonner soon. He’d already had two heart attacks. He wasn’t weak (or he never seemed that way to me). Nothing scrawny about this man. He just knew he wasn’t long for this world and wasn’t going to let me be surprised by it.

“Baby, I’m not gonna be around much longer.”

I’d reply in good ole fashioned teenager whine, “DAD! Stop saaaaying thaaaaat!”

“I just want you to know.”

And that was simply it. Exactly what he said. He just wanted me to know. He wanted to prepare me for what he felt was the inevitable. Not inevitable in the way that death is for us all but imminent. He felt it was coming soon. And It was. And It did.

One year later Dad had his third and final heart attack and it took him out. He was alive for one week in the hospital and then he was gone.

I didn’t really remember our bite sized death convos until the initial shock and grief had begun to wear off. But when I did it affected me deeply.

I didn’t like it while he was telling me. It scared the hell out of me. I didn’t know how to respond and I didn’t want to think about him being gone. But Dad knew how attached I was to him. And I was the youngest. The baby.

“Baby, ….”

So as a sixteen year old, feeling Dadless, I began to wonder about the things he would miss: graduations, my wedding (if I’d only known how long I wouldn’t have to worry about that), celebrations, opening nights and recitals. And I often felt upset that I was unprepared for my first trip to an emergency room, and subsequent first funeral not realizing that one is rarely prepared for these life altering events.

As I’ve gotten older and reflected on these feelings and questions there’s one thing that comes to the forefront of my mind: he prepared me. That isn’t to say that I was prepared. But he did do his best to make sure I wouldn’t be whip-lashed by surprise. It may not have been poetic or comforting at the time. But why should it have been? It was real. It was true.

It was generous and thoughtful.

“Baby, I’m not going to be around much longer. I just want you to know.”

He never belabored it. He never abused me with it. But it needed to be said. Perhaps because he knew me better than I did.

Later I relayed this to my older siblings. They were surprised to hear my story. I was expecting them to nod in agreement at how Dad said the same thing to them. But he didn’t. I learned that he only said it to me. Who knows why. Maybe he just felt I needed a little more prepping. A little more babying for the baby. They’d had more time with him after all.

So I survived losing my father at the age of fifteen –  one month away from my sixteenth birthday. I survived the grief and the absence. I survived not knowing the answer to questions that would come later in life – questions I didn’t know I’d have like: Where should I move after graduation? Should I go out with this guy? How do I save money for….? What do I do when…?  I survived Dad’s death. Just like to obituary said.

I didn’t have to ask how to change a flat tire, though. He took care of that before he left…that and how to change spark plugs. Never had to use either. But I was prepared.

Now uh, Dad?…about those boys

Calling all Stand-in Dads

It was a bad break up. Baaaaaaaaaaaad baaaaaaaaaaad break up. He was my entre into becoming an expert in dating dangerous men. Which kind of dangerous you ask? The controlling kind. The drinking kind.

The kind that did not like being the one dumped.

Though it took me three years and several verbal and emotional bruisings to understand that, yes, I could get out and I could make it on my own at twenty-six, (even though I’d moved to New York alone), I managed to finally muster up the courage, get over my Daddy Complex, and exit stage left.

At this point in my life my father had already died and my step-father was fifteen hundred miles away in Texas. He was not the rescue type (and I was not telling my parents everything either). But they did know enough call in the tertiary troops.

This “troop” came in the form of my mother’s first cousin, who also lived in New York, and had five children of his own. All grown. The moment my mother made the call, I became number six.

He made damn sure I knew it.

“You’re my kid,” he’d flatly state.

That’s a man, my friends. That’s a Stand-In Dad. “SiD.”

SiD, my first cousin once removed, not really my dad, too fatherly to call cousin. I’ll call him Uncle. Very Shakespearean.

Fleur and “Uncle Sid” (a/k/a Robert Braine)

Uncle SiD arrived from Long Island on the official day of my departure from an Upper West Side apartment, (rank with Stench du Wino), in his car; locked and ready to load. He came as moral support, too. Oh, let’s be real – He came as The Protector. Dad Protector. The only thing missing was the cape.

We loaded the car with all my things. We were just ready to hit the road when he spotted three boxes packed and stacked against the wall in the corner off the hallway.

“What are those?” questioned SiD. He was eyeing labeled boxes. Conspicuously labeled boxes. Boxes labeled in black Sharpie: “FLEUR’S STUFF”.

I explained that I was going to come back and get them (what was I thinking?) later.

He made no response.

I reasoned that they were heavy and I thought I’d just load them in a cab…you know…later. The truth is I didn’t want to be a burden to this relatively new relative-acquaintance of mine. I had no idea at the time he would become Uncle Stand-in-Dad. Perhaps he just needed a little reassurance.

“It’s okay. I’ll get them…ya know…later.

There was a brief eternal pause.

Then Uncle SiD spoke as if he was separating lights from darks, ordering a burger, choosing a tie.

“Let’s take them now.”

This is not my native tongue. What is this language he speaks? I suspect he has spoken this Speak before. It’s as if he knows what he’s doing. Could this be… Dad-Tongue?

Yet Little Red continued down the garden path. “Oh, don’t worry about it,” she said, skipping toward the door, “I can get them laaaaaaater.”

SiD didn’t move. Laundry done, Burger gone, Tie tied.

This was the moment of truth. A subtle game change. The first clue was the glint in his eye. But not knowing him well, I couldn’t read his glints yet. Was this hypnosis? Telepathy? Was he simply confused by this newly adopted Southern transplanted orphan? It was a face-off at either end of the hallway. Who would draw first?

I think I saw tumbleweed blow past the bathroom door.

“Why don’t we take them… now.”


Phraseology be damned, he was using the word “We” in its royal form. And We were not questioning anything. We were now hoisting the first box, (heavy books), onto Our able shoulder.

Yet still she doth protest! “But —!

“Let’s go.”

There are moments where action takes place right before your eyes. You see it happening. There it is. Yep. Right there. Happening now. Look at that. La la la. Your mind wants to debate, defend. Yet words will not go from space between ears to sounds out of mouth. Duh, duh, duh.

By the time I managed to catch up with what was happening he was out the door with the third box.

Holy Stand-in-Dad.

I forgot to mention that the now “Ex” was witnessing all of this from a safe distance in the kitchen the entire time.

I slammed the door for the last time to the hungover screeching of “GIVE ME BACK THOSE PEARLS I GAVE YOU,” reminiscent of a wild peacock in heat.

I still have the pearls. I keep meaning to sell them. Or give them to the homeless woman on the Times Square Shuttle who loves to sing Donna Summer’s On The Radio in thirty-second increments.

But the death knell from the croaking peacock that day could never outlast the Song of SiD:

“You’re my kid.”

So sweetly singeth Uncle SiD.