Last week I performed a solo piece about you. And about me. And about memory, and writing, and how once you commit something to the page, it becomes “the truth,” the way a photograph becomes “the truth.”
I don't know if you would have liked my performance. It may have been too personal, or too “out there,” or too focused on the way you were at the end of your life. As I said in the piece, “How the hell do I know?”
It's not really my job to know what you think. I do think it is my job to be a responsible steward of your memory, and I think I did that. That was what I was doing with you throughout 2012. That was my job last year, and has been my job this year too. You are my job. Bet you didn't know that.
For a job, it's pretty engaging. I take care of myself through taking care of your legacy, the body of work you left behind, the impressions I take of you through my day, the genetic and historical material I pass along to my kids.
My kids didn't really “know” you, but then, I didn't either. When I hear other people talk about things you loved or did regularly, I am often surprised – not by the content, but by the predictability of your taste. I'm reminded of when Leo was born, and I was in Group Health Central Hospital on 15th. (One way I try to honor your memory is by naming places clearly, but I can't say I actually know the correct historical or current title of all the buildings in my life.) Amanda and I were taking a walk with my tiny, sleeping package of baby, and we stopped in front of an aquarium.
“He likes the fish,” Amanda said, absurdly.
“Leo likes dogs,” I said, just as absurdly. How the hell did we know?
But I do know what you liked. I do. I do. You liked Woody Allen movies, and Yasujiro Ozu movies. You liked opera. You liked Italian subs. You liked Island Spring Delicious Steamed Tofu, and you liked to say the complete names of things. You liked taking photographs of your children and other people because it was an easier way to interact with them than many more open-ended possibilities.
You liked the 1967 BBC TV series “The Forsyte Saga.” You liked the films and the life of Alexander Korda. You liked telling stories about your family.
You liked silliness, and silly hats, so when I performed last week, I put on my silliest hat, and one of your old navy blue Smartwool pullovers, and took off my shoes so people could see my orange-toed black socks, and I tried as hard as I could to be you and be me from moment to moment. I even tried to be Nancy Behr, who I knew only through her letters and your stories, and I'm afraid I may have reduced her to a cliché.
But I never reduced you, and I hope you would have liked that.