Quick trip to visit my daughter this past weekend. See her in a play in her drama school. Senior year. Fourth year they call it at the college she attends.
The fourth years all preparing for their showcase out in LA in a week. Week and a half. Event to show casting directors and agents their talent. Get the students work.
Frantic, some of them, like my daughter. Little sleep. Trying to get their scenes down. Get them right. Little bits of art and life arranged like so many jewels. Like so many elements. So many beautifully made moments that they have mastered. Scripted life moments from plays they’ve read. Art moments with love somewhere always running through them. Love and its antithesis.
Her boyfriend visiting. A young man I hardly know. Who she wants me to love in a fatherly or avuncular sort of way. A young man who seems periodically good and evil for her. To her. I do my best, I tell her, given I don’t really know the guy. Given the up and down history between them. The on again off again history of their love. Seems like a fine young man, I tell her. And I mean it. But my principal concern is your well being, I say to her. Like that. Ambivalent. Just like that. Just like me.
Two fourth year plays. My daughter’s is called The Game of Love. How original, I’m thinking. About a famous doctor lover in early twentieth century Vienna. A connoisseur of love. A man in love with loving women. Based on the real journals of a real doctor of that period. A real Don Juan of a doctor. Cast as a musical entertainment. And my daughter is the first of five shown us in the play. The five women. Exemplary women. Sings an aria. A funny aria. An aria that opera students find difficult, and here they have an actor trying it. A fine actor trying it. Mastering it.
Sounding lovely as a daughter can sound. Looking lovely as a daughter can look. And act. And be.
A loving daughter is one of the greatest blessings a man can have, is what I’m thinking as I watch her. Listen to her. With what’s his name sitting on the one side of me. My better half on the other. And laugh. Laugh because this is comedic. She’s comedic. Comedic in the sense of fortunate. And funny. In the sense of love triumphant in what she does. Love of what she does triumphant in the role. But not taking herself very seriously after all. Almost surprised at what she sings and says. Shocked in a playful way.
The nexus of Gracie Allen and Katharine Hepburn and Lucille Ball. Funny in the way that they can be funny where they all meet. In a kind of possible comedic desideratum where they all intersect. If I do say so. If the father of the young comedienne does say so himself.
The other play is Bus Stop. Inge. The rest of the fourth years are in this one. About the love of an inexperienced, full-of-himself, scared cowboy for a lonely young woman trying to make her way in the world. Who the cowboy is dragging toward marriage and his ranch in Montana. Bus trip to Montana from Kansas City. More or less against her will.
And at both plays, the chancellor of the school. The dean of the drama program. Voice teachers. Singing teachers. Visiting directors. Visiting acting and auditioning coaches. And this is on Friday night. Saturday matinee. Saturday night. The teachers supporting their students. Giving visibility to their love for these children. Their adoptive children. And at the show’s end, finding them outside their dressing rooms and hugging them. Telling them how well they did. How wonderful they were.
And the students there. Willing to make themselves naked to us. Baring their talent and preparation and stamina and creativity and skill and courage and faithfulness and souls and ultimately love—their capacity of heart—to us out there on the stage. Out there in front of God and the faculty and friends and parents and assorted strangers. Strangers who aren’t so strange, really—retired arts groupies, mostly, who come to these student things because they love seeing young people excel in the arts. In the dramatic arts.
And then between performances and breakfasts and dinners and whatnot, I call a friend—another mystic believer priest—who sent me an email the day before we left about how she’s getting married. Getting married! And this is the real thing, she says. And she is quite thoroughly joyful. And I therefore am quite thoroughly joyful.
To a minister. A denominational minister. A former missionary. A former professor. A widower. Whose children are all in college. They have had mostly a long-distance relationship. Emails and phone calls and so forth, punctuated by a few meetings in person.
And she says that a book I wrote a while ago now. A book I self-published several years ago. A book about her and several others who were involved with us in a home fellowship group in what is now, to me, a distant state. Since I moved away. A book that she asked him to buy and read. Which he did.
She says this book, which I wrote mostly out of love (I hope) for the people in it, has figured in their relationship. Has helped her explain to him who she is personally, emotionally, theologically, and spiritually. Has helped him understand what he’s getting himself into.
And he likes what he reads. He isn’t as experienced with Charismatic Christians as maybe he would like to be, but he likes these spiritually naked Christians I describe in the book. He’s willing to learn about this. He’s willing to open himself to this. And to her.
And as she’s telling me this, I’m saying to myself, well maybe this writing business. Maybe this isn’t a thorough waste of time after all. Maybe it matters to someone besides me, after all. Maybe it can make a difference.
So after leave taking. Which is always hard. Which I never want to do. After saying goodbye to my wonderful daughter. And her boyfriend. A fine young man who I am looking forward to getting to know better.
We try to leave, Sunday morning. My better half and I. We go to the airport. We get on the plane. We get off the plane. I stand around in line after line while my better half sits and chats with a woman who is dying of cancer. With another woman whose grandmother has just died and who is returning to her native country for the funeral. Or trying to. Providing compassion to them. Providing a sympathetic ear. As I get angrier and angrier. Because the equipment is defective. The equipment won’t work. Won’t be fixed. And the airline people won’t do their jobs.
I’m getting so angry, I think my head will explode. I don’t know why. Maybe I get so angry because the equipment—the airplane—is to some extent a metaphor for myself. Somehow I’ve made this thing. This inanimate object. A metaphor for me. Something that won’t work. That refuses to be fixed. That refuses to fly, so to say.
Or maybe I’ve somewhere in me. Mysteriously. Made it a metaphor for the church. The Christian church.
Or maybe it’s humanity. Maybe for me on this particular Sunday, this airplane has come to stand for all of humanity. Or maybe it’s all of these. I don’t know.
Otherwise. Except for some far-fetched explanation like this. I don’t know how to explain it. The head pounding anger. I don’t know how to explain the irrationality of it. The extreme emotion of it. The sudden and extreme foulness of it. Well, I do, but I don’t. Let’s put it that way. I do, but I don’t.
I’m an experienced traveler. These things happen. Normally I roll with them. But today. As this little drama unfolds. This little gem of a life experience is revealed. And I’m stuck in it like a fly in a chunk of amber. The top of my head feels like it’s blowing off. I glare at everyone. I search for people who will meet my gaze and glare at them. Particularly airline representatives.
But look at it this way, Bill. My better half says. Take for example the two women I was speaking with. The one dying. The one grieving over her grandmother. Neither of us is dying. No one close to us has died recently. We’re fine, Bill, she says, putting her arm around mine.
We probably won’t get home, I’m thinking. Maybe we’ll crash. Maybe they’ll put us up in a cockroach hotel and we’ll get some social disease. I bet they lose our bags, is what I’m obsessing about. As I interact with the airline representatives. Who seem only marginally competent. Who seem anxious to get to the end of their shifts and move on. Who could care less, as far as I can tell. Who are merely doing their jobs. Who are minimally doing their stinking jobs. I’ll lose a day of work, I’m imagining. A day I can’t afford to lose.
But no. After more lines. After being rerouted. After being ignored and then finally taken care of. By a kindly older woman. By a woman who is immensely reassuring. Who is motherly almost. Motherly in a good way. And competent. And concerned. An example of deus ex machina, if I’ve ever seen one. Who books us on other flights. Who takes our bags from us in a consoling manner. Who takes her time, as if we had all day to do this. Plenty of time, she says. You have plenty of time. Don’t worry, she says. Nothing to worry about.
Turns out, she’s right. We do have plenty of time. And we’re able to relax again. Or I am. And it turns out we do get home. Later than we would have liked. But we do in fact get safely and fortunately and miraculously home.