Friday, February 4, 2011

Conversations With My Father (a beginning)

February 4, 2011
Washington, DC

My Dad died 14 years ago. But I still talk to him. Late at night, when the world is winding down, when the house is quiet, the air still, when sound travels around a room with a clarity that makes you think it can exist only in your imagination, I find myself, well, talking to him. Night was always his time. He didn't understand morning. I'm not sure he ever understood daylight. But 3am? Always. That was his hour. Its when he was so alive that you could feel him walking -- pacing, prowling -- around the house even though the door was closed and your lights long since out. You'd hear his cigarette lighter snap open, the needle drop on the turntable and "boom" Berlioz, or Brahms or Mahler burst through the night. When even New York was asleep, he'd be doing the dishes from a dinner he took three hours to craft and an eternity to serve. A meal at 11 wasn't uncommon. 

For a long time after he passed I stopped talking to him. Call it separation. Call it denial. But he was gone. Yet, over the years, memory filters through, the force of the moments which called you to be who you became slip through the cracks that come with time, and, in small ways, he found his way back. I'd be deep into one of his books (my Dad's library encompassed entire walls) and he'd be there. A lesson from dinner would be there. A word at bedtime would be there. A strong, course hand on my shoulder would be there. Memory would be there. Restored. Returned. Found. 

In these past weeks, when the challenges of keeping the very art that was the foundation of CityDance alive have grown like monsters in a child's imagination when the wind whistles under the seam in the window, it has startled me how present he's been. 

It's been a mixed blessing, that presence. Every child, no matter his or her age, carries so much which is unresolved about their parents. The good mixes with the bad -- the conversation you treasured intertwined with the one you never finished -- or never had, with the one you intended that death took away. 

For most of us, I think, those things lie like stones in a field. You work your way around them, you live your life seeing and feeling them, knowing that there's nothing you can do with them. I have an advantage there. I have dance and a company that understands what to do with life's grace, with its pain and possibilities. A company of extraordinary talent not simply as the physicalization of an idea, but of the idea itself. 

Yesterday we started a new conversation -- one not simply with my father, but with all our fathers. A love story for ourselves, with ourselves and with each other. A journey through our lives, and through our hearts with our families, present and absent, living and passed, because wherever they are, they are with us because we are so very much of them.

At a moment when so many things are challenging everything I treasure about what we do, it makes sense I think to find a way back -- back to family, back to friendships. Three weeks from tonight that journey finds its way to the stage. 

So much conversation lies ahead. 

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