I wasn’t there this afternoon when my daughter gave permission to turn off the breathing machine and my ex-husband, her father, took his last artificial breath. I was home, getting ready for the Hospice nurse’s visit tomorrow to assess my mother.
But I was with him for more than a day before that, when he told me had had an earworm for the past several days.
“Bloody Mary,” he said smiling, as we remembered the production of South Pacific in which we performed together more than 35 years ago, he as Lt. Cable, and I as Liat.
In the back of my smile, I think about another bloody female. Kali: birth mother; death mother, tongue redder even than betel nuts. She had wormed in far beyond his ear.
He understood my fascination with Kali, Lilith. He might have used other names for those forces, but he knew them well. That was part of what we always had in common — our immersion in the poetic power of myth. “Myrln” understood magic. Our son tells me that, for a couple of days before I called to tell him to get on a plane, he saw three crows chasing a hawk. Bill would have embraced that metaphor.
“There’s one thing I really have to do,” he had told me in between dozing off in his recliner just two days ago. “I want to write down how I feel about all those people who have been close to me. I know that I’m a very private person. I know that I’ve played my life close to the vest. I want to tell them how much they mean to me.”
But he never had a chance to write that last piece of his special eloquence. He also never had a chance to enjoy that first day of 70 degree weather after the long dreary winter that he hated so much.
Nevertheless, the depths of his feelings had been expressed often in the many scripts (some performed and some not), memoirs, and poetry that he had written over his lifetime. His original stage play, The Killings Tale, won a audio book “Audie” in 2004.. His adaptations and original scripts have often been performed by the New York State Theater Institute.
Warner Music Group awarded NYSTI $400,000 in 1996 to develop five new musicals for family audiences. The first of those was “A Tale of Cinderella” by W.A.Frankonis, Will Severin, and George David Weiss, made possible in part by funding provided by Warner Music Group and by the participation of Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. An immediate success, the award-winning show is available as an Atlantic Theatre CD or cassette and has been re-released on VHS as part of Warner Home Video’s 75th Anniversary Celebration. Vocal Selections from “A Tale of Cinderella” is available from Warner Bros. Publications. The video was broadcast nationwide on PBS stations to an audience of more than 56 million TV households (half of potential US audiences). In the 2000-01 Season, “A Tale of Cinderella” toured all the major cities of New York including Buffalo, Syracuse, the Capital Region, and Manhattan.
His life and work will be remembered by a great many people. But I will remember him as the young man I married in a flurry of passion and possessiveness even though in many ways we were oil and water. We wound up being better friends than spouses.
I will miss his political rants and the books he would send me after he read them. I will miss the father he was to our children. I will miss a friend, and I will always be glad that I was able to be there for him when he needed help so close to the end of a life ended too soon.
ADDENDUM: b!X has posted excerpts from his dad’s willl and it is no surprise that Bill used the same humor, honesty, and creativity in writing his will as he had with all of his other writings.