The Cyclone Line - December 7, 2016
It's been awhile, it certainly has.
Here's the deal; it turns out that taking care of a parent who has dementia is a tougher thing than anyone can realistically expect or prepare for, no matter what you hear. I recently heard a spokesman for the Libertarian platform defend his stand on abolishing Medicaid and privatizing Social Security by saying, "well, everyone I know would be proud and happy to take care of their loved ones when they get old."
He had no idea.
You can't do it alone, you can't leave them alone either, you can't stay at home all the time, add it up. We need help with these things. When that help comes from an experienced memory care facility - such as the wonderful Olympic Alzheimer's Residence in Gig Harbor where my father spent the last year of his life - you find that it costs thousands of dollars a month. It's worth every penny, and more, if it's a place as good as Olympic. But if you don't have it, you need that Medicaid, you just do.
At the best of times, with all the help you need, it's emotionally and physically exhausting. It takes a long time to build up strength again and to recover from the loss... Well, how do you do that anyway? At the best of times?
It turns out that I was more fortunate with friends and family than I realized, and I thought I placed an enormous value on those people in my life. Not nearly enough, though. When my new friend Charlotte Tiencken came to me with the idea of writing a play about my father's life in the Oklahoma dustbowl, I jumped at the chance, not knowing that so much deep healing would happen in the process of writing it.
In a nutshell, that's how I spend the year following dad's passing. Then we had the first full production of the play on a weekend in early November of this year, a month ago. The play is called "The Cyclone Line," named for the telephone line in Oklahoma that stretched over the barbed wire fence - a party line that was often used to track the weather, good and bad, including the dust storms. That party line was a natural vehicle to wrap a play around, I thought, it seemed to be a powerful image for bringing the voices of the past into the present so they can be heard again, and not lost. It's time for that, certainly, if we don't want to bring another dustbowl on ourselves.
Stay tuned for news of The Cyclone Line, Charlotte is representing the play and we hope to bring it to a theatre near you. Judging from the number of people who saw the first production and have stopped me on the street to talk about their lost loved ones, the massive impact of the dustbowl, the great danger to our environment, the power of story... I guess this is a piece that should have as much of an audience as I can find for it.
Wish me luck. Hope to see you all soon, somewhere down the line.