Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Framing Your Fear

I went to the world premiere of "The Pink Ribbon Project." Terry volunteered to help sell tickets and wine. I ordered a cup of white wine from her and then wandered to draw. A large canvas was set up in a side room where audience members were invited to consider the following question... "What am I, or what have I been afraid of." Thick permanent markers were on the floor under the canvas. I wrote on the canvas twice, writing, "I am afraid of loosing the ones I love, and, Mortality."

Cole Nesmith, the show's creative consultant, devised this canvas of fears. He was one of the first to write something, scrawling out, "Judgement." I sat in a dark corner of the room and started to sketch. People had a tough time reading the directions on the back of the program. They hunched over trying to illuminate the pink lettering on the black page using the lone spotlight. The first people were nervous and joked about their fears rather than facing them. A woman wrote "Spiders" and got a laugh from the rest of her family. Then a breast cancer survivor walked up and wrote, "I fear my cancer might return." The idea of the interactive piece was to confront fears, expose them, so that they could be overcome.

It was a sold out house. Terry told me to go back to my truck and get my artist's stool, I might need it. Volunteers were seated after everyone else. I tried to find two seats together but there were none. I found a seat for Terry and then was prepared to sit on the sidelines. Then I noticed one seat open in the front row. I asked the lovely lady from Eden Spa if the seat was available and it was. I couldn't believe my luck, front row! Aradhana Tiwari the director, introduced the show and she gave a bouquet of flowers to the woman from Eden Spa. I was seated next to a VIP.

The entire cast jogged onto stage in bright pink t-shirts, moving to "Walk this Way." They stretched and posed for photos. It was a scene typical of a breast cancer awareness walk or 5k. It was an energetic and humorous way to begin the show. Lindsay Cohen gave a monologue about her mom. When she found out her mom had breast cancer, she rushed to her. She leaped into her mother's arms, sobbing. Ironically her mom had to comfort her. "Your father's an ass man anyway." Laughter turned to tears.

Marty Stonerock's monologue hit closest to home. She was seven when she lost her mom. Having her mother die was her "brand" growing up. When introduced to a new class, she was the girl whose mother died when she was little. At pity parties it was an ace in the hole. A grainy black and white photo showed her dad along with the kids. Her mother stood in the background leaning against a chair. She was bleached out by the bright window behind her, a ghost of herself. "This is her post mastectomy." Marty said. Why didn't she write a letter? The type of letter that could explain everything." Like Marty, as a child, I felt abandoned without warning. I was mad as hell.

My mom knew she was going to die when her breast cancer spread to her lymph nodes and then her liver. We hoped they would find a liver transplant that never came. She had six children and she knew Arthur, her husband, wasn't emotionally going to be able to raise them himself. From her hospital bed, she told her lifelong friend, Joyce, to introduce him to Ruth when she died. Ruth, who went to the same church as my mom, had just lost her husband to cancer. She knew Ruth would make a good mother. Sure enough nine months after she died, Art and Ruth were married. What kind of strength and sacrifice was involved to imagine and hope that the love of her life would find a new love after she died, and to play matchmaker from her death bed? I didn't know this about my mother growing up. I learned it many years later when I interviewed Joyce. My mothers heart held many secrets. She was, and always will be my hero.

I searched my pockets for a tissue. Finding none, I laughed and cried with abandon. The theater was dark anyway. No one could see. Behind me a woman breathed with shallow deliberateness. She must be fighting cancer. When the large canvas was wheeled in, the artist began painting away the fears, my fears. As a ten year old, I made a pact with God when he took my mother. I said, "If you guide my hand, I will use my art to celebrate and praise your great work." I felt he owed me. Art has to be able to heal any wound. In the end, I hope I give enough. I left the theater feeling love, hope and faith. My heart overflowed. The three shows raised over $5000 for breast cancer.

2 comments:

Balaji said...

while your sketches are always wonderful, this time your commentary is outshines the sketch.

Thor said...

Thanks for reading Balaji.