The Book of ‘And Then’

Yesterday I woke early to watch the latest episode of “This Is Us,” which means I was a puddle by 7 am, when I’ve programmed my phone to wake me every day with Aretha Franklin singing “Hello Sunshine.” The show always undoes me–Gd knows I’m not alone in this fact–but the last few episodes have been completely ruining. The death of Jack Pearson, the patriarch played so sweetly and sadly by Milo Ventimiglia, devastated me even though intimations of his demise have been woven into the series since its inception.

The timing also wove devastatingly into my real life. I’ve always believed it’s not my right to disclose the details of other people’s hardship on my blog, and I won’t begin to do so now. Suffice it to say the father of one of my dearest friends, a person so private I’ve never included a picture of her here or even her real name, died last week, and I’ve been taking her loss with me everywhere because that’s how our bond works. When good things happen to one of us, they happen to both of us, and the same holds true with the bad. But I also know that while I can hold my friend’s hand and even some of her pain, this is a path she walks alone. The loss of one’s father is a shadow nothing can fully brighten, especially in a world in which good daddies are far and few in between.

To that end, my father’s 76th birthday was last week and I’ve been thinking about him nonstop. The truth, as anyone who reads this blog regularly must have discerned, is I have a fraught relationship with my family of origin, and I won’t get into why here. That’s what books are for. But I will say that more than ever I am aware that while love is limitless–and I really, really love my father and know he loves me–forms are not.

And lord knows life keeps moving. Ever since I turned 100 (okay, 47), it seems the universe has put me on an acceleration program. After nine months of not being on television, I did two shows the week before last. I won’t reveal more details lest anything not come through–I know, I know, a lot of withholding in this post–but suffice it to say I can feel Saturn in its ruling planet of Capricorn, where its seeds are best sown. I’ve even blonded my hair again and, gasp, shaved my pits.

The night before my birthday, I sat beneath the big cold heavens of the Mermaid Woods, and I asked Gd to show me how next to make money. Because, you know, I really, really need to start making some cash again.

Specifically I asked if I should return to commentating.

In the morning, wedged between many other lovely birthday missives was one from J, a Texas critic whom I’ve never met but with whom I often instant message about our industry. I dreamed that you were on a stage, he wrote. You looked great, were wearing black. You had your own show and people loved it.

I sat back, looked up through the skylight of the gorgeous room I’d booked for my birthday, and said aloud: Thank you.

A few years before, J. had messaged me about another dream. You were a beautiful older woman with a white bob. You lived on the top floor of a white building on a hill overlooking Manhattan. You had many lovers.

The day before that dream, I had hired a lawyer to ensure my apartment would remain rent-stabilized, and had lain awake all night agonizing about whether my action would pay off. If it didn’t, I’d known I would end up homeless; my landlord surely would be too incensed to renew my lease and I was too broke to afford another NYC apartment. J’s dream had been a mitzvah, especially as he’d known nothing about my housing troubles. It not only assured me I’d stay in my my building (which J had not known was my building), but it assured me I’d remain sexually viable into my old age. Not a bad message for a lady who’d been feeling scared and dried up after an especially lethal breakup. As a bonus, it had shown J how useful his “psychic receiver” could be.

A year later, my rent-stabilized lease came into fruition (I’m still waiting to see if I’ll be a sexy old woman), and the accuracy of that dream gave me confidence that the one in which I had my own show was a response to my query about commentating–a vigorous nod, in essence.

The universe does not mess.

Two days later networks started calling and the “and thens” started kicking in. I taped a new iteration of my old show in New York and then flew to Los Angeles for a new-new show and then returned to the tri-state area to give film lectures and then to NYC to paint the town red with Melina for our mutual birthdays and then hosted a bevy of Ruby Intuition clients and then, alas, climbed back in my car to drive to Pennsylvania for a funeral and wake.

O, how life is speeding.

I’ve been back at Gracie Rosmansion for a few days now and the weather until today has been drek. A perfect excuse to not go outside, not get dressed, not answer messages. To stay in bed and watch old Grey’s Anatomy and ER episodes, basically. I could feign loftier TV preferences but really I like medical dramas. They help me understand the symptoms I sense in my clients and their plot “and thens” always outflank my own.

So it’s been a full-on bed-in, and I’m almost back to me. For some of us, alone time isn’t just a privilege. It’s a necessity.

But no matter what I do, no matter what I read and watch, no matter how much I sleep and drink tea and rub lotion into my ashy elbows, the issue of dead fathers keeps coming up in my shows, social media feeds, casual conversations. That line flashing like a neon sign in my mind’s eye: Love doesn’t change, but the form always does.

I need to go back to Massachusetts if I’m ever to finish this book.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy