Sunday, May 29, 2005

Henrik Mayer Hansen
May 24, 1904 - May 28, 2005


photo: Huntington Beach, Bay Village. June, 1972

Only fitting that Henrik (my brother) should give me the news. I was trying to get a call through this morning while my folks were notifying him. And so he called me.

We talked. I talked to Dad. It's always the same with us; the question, "How are you doing?" is inevitably met with the response, "oh, I'm fine," and then a prolonged recitation on what is currently happening, and not what we feel.

"Oh, I'm fine, we just got back from church and later some people are coming over, we're hoping to get outside while it's still sunny ..." And so on.

Actually, Henrik and I made metatextual references to the fact that we were aware we were doing exactly that, and then did a respectably decent job of actually adressing some real emotions. The word "guilt" was used a lot. Then we talked about movies.

I do not know what I am feeling, honestly. I keep remembering he died last night and then I remember that I don't feel as strongly about that as I guess I think I should. How much can you grieve for a man whose death you had been waiting for - not the way you wait for a present, but more the way you wait for an impending rainstorm - I mean, let's face it, he was 101 years old.

I got to tell him he had a new great-grandson, and that was wonderful. He even got to see pictures and Mom read him a letter I had written for his birthday. And he had that birthday. It was so nice seeing him last year when he turned 100. Every year, fewer visitors. Fewer and fewer people alive who knew you ever lived.

A lifespan should be so much longer than your own life. Since birth (1935) my mother has been called Tertia - the third - by her parents, her brothers, their families and so by my cousins and their kids, and now by Zelda. That Zelda calls her this gives my mother happiness because when she is gone someone will still be remembering her, using that name, for a long time.

What's amusing, I guess is that the only people who don't call her that is her husband or her sons. For the longest time I thought Tertia was simply short for Virginia, which I wouldn't call her, anyway.

There will be grief, even if it is mild. I was surprised by the sadness I felt, the vacancy, the first time I returned to Athens and Toni's grandfather Calvin wasn't there. I knew the last time we visited Grandfather Henrik that it would, in all likelihood, be the final time. Will I ever have occasion to see St. Petersburg, Florida again? That same little apartment that my grandfather (and before that, he and Grandmother Helen, together) lived in for almost thirty years?

And why the hell is it that places fill me with greater melancholy than people do?

Now where am I? I am at the end of so many things. The school year is over. The son is born. The grandfather is dead. I do not know what I will do this summer, there are no road trips, no performances, my heel is broken and I cannot run, and on top of all this, I have no clear indication by my employer as to exactly what I am going to be doing for them during the next three months.

I am in a place of great stillness. Perhaps I should be enjoying this.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend, everyone.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Mork Calling Brian, Come in Brian

For being the first person to make a Mork & Mindy reference to my son - Brian gets the "Big Cheese" award.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Shut Up, Hippy

From: The Believer
Sunday New York Times Magazine, May 22, 2005

(An article on Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, the passage in question details his and his wife's decisions at the time of the death of one of his children - emphasis mine.)

"The childbirth in 1996 was a source of terrible heartbreak -- the couple were told by doctors early in the pregnancy that the baby Karen was carrying had a fatal defect and would survive only for a short time outside the womb. According to Karen Santorum's book, 'Letters to Gabriel: The True Story of Gabriel Michael Santorum,' she later developed a life-threatening intrauterine infection and a fever that reached nearly 105 degrees. She went into labor when she was 20 weeks pregnant. After resisting at first, she allowed doctors to give her the drug Pitocin to speed the birth. Gabriel lived just two hours.

"What happened after the death is a kind of snapshot of a cultural divide. Some would find it discomforting, strange, even ghoulish -- others brave and deeply spiritual. Rick and Karen Santorum would not let the morgue take the corpse of their newborn; they slept that night in the hospital with their lifeless baby between them. The next day, they took him home. 'Your siblings could not have been more excited about you!' Karen writes in the book, which takes the form of letters to Gabriel, mostly while he is in utero. 'Elizabeth and Johnny held you with so much love and tenderness. Elizabeth proudly announced to everyone as she cuddled you,
This is my baby brother, Gabriel; he is an angel. '"

You tell me whether or not the author in question is in the ghoulish vs. spiritual camp - his suggestion that this illustrates the "cultural divide" facing us today should be evidence enough. And so he plays into the devil's hands.

I couldn't disagree with Senator Santorum more. There is a special place in his Hell for people like him, it is the Eighth Circle, the one reserved for hypocrites. He represents the worst in American piety. His extremist stands against the rights of homosexuals and women are an abomination against all that is kind and good.

And yet the writer of this piece plays the same game as people like Santorum and his ilk. Anyone who agrees with Santorum's views would take this as an example of another elite East Coast liberal journalist's denigration of the so-called "culture of life." It also goes to bolster said liberal elite's accusations that the conservative right, in fact, embraces a "culture of death" - and sleeps with its "lifeless" "corpse" if we may be so gratuitous.

Apparently the writer was ignorant of the fact that parents are often encouraged to spend the night with their dead children (can't you just see the fist fight that occured when the Senator "would not let let the morgue take" their child) nor the entire movement that goes along with sharing the new child with the rest of the family. Anyone who knows me knows not calling my parents over to see Calvin is one of the great regrets of my life.

No, Rick Santorum is a sanctimonious, bigoted, right-wing a****** with ridiculous taste in clothes. But anyone who challenges his rights as the father of a dead child can go screw themselves.

(For fun, however, please visit spreadingsantorum.com)

Friday, May 20, 2005

Back to "The Future"

ring out the bells again
like we did when spring began
wake me up when september ends


Apparently Green Day is a big hit in Britain. That doesn't surprise me.

Against unbelieveable odds, the performance at MetroHealth went off today with out (much of) a hitch. To say I slept-walked through it wouldn't be fair to me or the audience, but with roughly fifteen hours of sleep spread out over four nights, it is fair to say I was dreaming or channeling a fair part of it. It felt odd at first - a lot of them do - and just kept rolling as we went along.

Technically, it was a drag. Kelly did the best she could with a sound situation that was tossed at her at the last minute, and it didn't help there was no front lighting at all. I was like this shadow through most of the perf. Tom would have had a hissy.

But the audience was game, one of the largest I've performed to. I was promised something like two hundred plus but I wonder if it hit that, there were enough vacant seats - this was the last event in a two day conference on coping with grief, and I wasn't surprised a lot of participants might opt to get out into the sunshine on what was a beautiful day.

But the reaction from those present was very strong, and I was deeply moved by the folks who came up after to talk to me. This tale is so many people's tale, it's heartbreaking. It's also why I do it.

There was a couple there who we knew from our second Bradley session, the one for Zelda. It was odd, way back then (late 2002, early 2003) our being the couple in the class who had lost their previous child - and talked about it. Seemed out of place, like talking about vomit in a cooking class. We thought these folks were lovely, though, the husband in particular was always there with a funny comment when the class got awkward.

Their girl, Emma, died shortly after birth. We tried reaching out to them at the time, and they appreciated it, but I guess they had other ways to deal with their loss, and that's all right. I was so happy to see them there today - and with their 10-month son Cole.

Laura & Justin were there, they took the day off to come. I am glad they got to see it, too - though if it were almost anyone else I might have suggested they didn't, I usually warn off folks whose grief is so raw just because, I don't know, I am afraid of hurting them with it. Justin looked visibly shaken (I know you're reading this, I hope you don't mind my saying so.) But I meant it when I said I went in there today thinking "I'm exhausted, I could skate through this, but I am doing this today just for you."

I was getting seriously choked up today in places, especially delivering the Memorial Day scene. That doesn't usually happen, in spite of the subject matter, I am too technical (distant?) a performer to get any true emotions involved. I prefer to act.

And then there was The Future. Man, it's crazy. Way back when, in 2002 when I was first drafting this, I was trying to write, more or less, a scene for every month from 03/01 - 03/02. That time frame, of course, includes 9/11. And in Writers' Group most everyone was behind what became the scene called The Future except for Bohan. He was frank in telling me he thought making an allusion to the WTC was a bit jarring, and yanked him out of the narrative. I was writing an intimate story, and I had exited it into the outside world. I think that was my point, but I also didn't want to "jar" anyone out of the play.

I stuck with it. And what's funny is how while other little bits of the show become dated (F.A.O. Schwartz is closed, Six Flags isn't around anymore) that one scene becomes more and more poignant as the years add up.

"I miss the 90s." Funnier in 2005 than 2002. "I miss the Democratic Party." More of a groaner now than ever. And when I state "The anticipation of the 21st century was so much sweeter than what is has offered," - today, for the first time ever, I could hear actual murmurings of assent from the audience. Now that was jarring - to me. And that's when you know an audience is right there with you.

I have a yearing to rest now. In the time since Monday I feel I have lived the past five years in five days. Good night.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

What's On David's iPod?
Wake Me Up When September Ends
Green Day
American Idiot
(Yes, it's true. Green Day made me cry.)

From: Overheard In New York
Black dude: Yo, you shoulda seen this baby. It was like 42 inches long.
Spanish chick: Yo, no way. That's like almost 2 feet.
--Q train


Thanks, everybody. We've gotten a lot of awesome and supportive emails. I'd describe the birthing in detail, only that's really Toni's job and I shouldn't take that away from her ... at least not online.

Just another gratuitously adorable photo.

He's such a chunk, our golden bear. I figured it out today, I think he looks like my dad, he's got my dad's head, and, I think, his eyes. That may just because he's got swollen, just-been-born head.

My brother Henrik is 41 today - happy birthday, man, they're my two of my favorite albums from 2004, I hope you like them.

Spoke with my great-grandfather Henrik yesterday afternoon. That was hard. He turns 101 on Tuesday (uh, no, that's not a typo - his birthday really is on Tuesday) and he was trying so hard for me to understand him.

"Uhm, what was that Grandfather? Did you, uh ... we love you, too, was that ... uh. We love you. What? What? How is Toni? I think you just said - uh, she's fine."

I think he knows he has a new great-grandson. I think so. I hope so. I don't know.

I came to understand him most in the past four years. I finally felt we had something in common, and that we had something to talk about.

He and Grandma Helen lost three kids before adopting my father and my uncle. Two died before they were born, and one lived for an hour. When I used to hear tales about life back in tha' day, and how lots of children died in childbirth, I just thought, you know, that's what it was like back then. No big deal.

I love hearing stories about how people didn't used to get very attached to their children back then - not the way people do today - because they didn't know if they were going to live or not.

Isn't that just the biggest load of horseshit you've ever heard?

Toni & Orson come home tomorrow. I think one more day and Zelda would fricking explode. I have almost recovered myself, I am still a little weak and my voice is very tired. And I have a show tomorrow! Jesus. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

A New Beginning ... and a Peculiar Ending

Orson Aurelius Thayer-Hansen, born May 18, 2005.

My wife Toni is a force of nature to be reckoned with. In the past two days it's like she gave birth twice - once naturally, going into the hospital on Monday evening with very strong and close contractions which had petered away to nothing with exhaustion and disappointment by noon. Then after a few hours of drug-induced rest, she struggled with the effects of Pitocin - but without the assistance of an epidural - to give birth to a monstrous boy, 10 lbs. 3 oz. She was literally one more push away from an emergency C-section when the boy was born, just after midnight.

He is big. He is strong (his heartbeat never wavered during the exhausting ordeal) and he lives.

You can see where I am going with this. I will attempt to be interesting.

Looking at Ellen, our midwife, yesterday, I was struck with a memory I had not thought of, well, since it happened. We were interviewing midwives before we got pregnant, in mid-2000. Like a lot of people, we wanted to time our first child (who we imagined would be our only child) with all of our other projects. Ellen moved from this office to a different one shortly after Calvin was conceived and so I have a fuzzy memory of the place. It was on Chagrin.

And who was I then? 32 years old, the artistic director of a no-profit (sic) theater company and erstwhile webmaster (that's so new economy!) And I knew nothing. This is what struck me last night, the night at the end of that journey - Ellen has led us through three child births in the past five years. And that day in her office, how much less of a million things did I know? How many experiences, sure, but simply, how many words? How many drugs? How many diagnoses? How many rooms? How many nurses, midwives, doctors, chaplains, and bereaved parents? How many dead children?

Orson was born in room 15 of MacDonald Women's Hospital, Second floor. Zelda was born in 16. And Calvin in 17. A trifecta.

I hadn't been in room 17 since we left it, late in the evening, just after The West Wing (it was a repeat - part one of the episode "Manchester") on Wednesday, March 21, 2001. I walked past it several times when we were expecting Zelda, it's not on a main corridor, it's tucked away, around a corner, but I could always see the doorway as I passed. Just the doorway, nothing inside.

Yes, I went in yesterday. No, this morning, probably around one-thirty, as I was fetching post-partem ice water. After Orson was safely among us. I told Toni about it. "I don't recommend it," I said. She had thought of it as well, and wouldn't dare go in, anyway.

It's the same. Maybe the drapes had changed, and the computer. Everything was in its same place. The bed. The tee vee. The incubator. The wallpaper. And a big, "country-style" rocking chair, set against the wall overlooking the atrium. Away from the bed.

It happened here. We saw him here, held him here, and nowhere else. I wrote a play. This is where it takes place. Even the bits that don't take place in the this room, take place in this room.

I left after a few seconds. Not a happy place. I know countless people have healthy, living children in this room. Their memories of this room exist in a different dimension from the one normal humans live in.

We also had a visit with Carrie - Nurse Angel. When we had Zelda two years ago, she walked past me in the hall and I couldn't say hi. I was shy. Then I saw her this time, as I was helping a contracting Toni down the hall. Again, couldn't say anything. Probably because what needed to be said, couldn't be said in the hall, passing by.

"Oh hi, maybe you remember me, we had a stillbirth in 2001 and you were our first nurse, the one who was responsible for laying out all of the decisions we needed to make, and your candor and compassion, though disorienting at the time, were so perfect, so exactly what we needed, that we have remembered you ever since, and you have even served as a model for the way we now speak with people about their grief, and, uh, I immortalized you in a play about the experience and have impersonated you on-stage in Cleveland, Minneapolis and New York City and have a gig this Friday at MetroHealth."

We made sure we invited her to sit with us yesterday, and she did. We hadn't spoken to her since then, either, it's been four years. How often do you get to share with someone you know only briefly, fleetingly, about the incalculable impact they had on your life with one act of kindness, compassion and respect?

I may never step onto "Mac 2" ever again. I know its layout very well, at least the bits birthing fathers get to see. And yet, that's it. Its geometry, its architecture, its corridors, its furniture, its cast of characters, get relegated to that vault in my mind reserved for my old elementary school, my first house, Cindy's uncle's house off West 25th street. I may never see them again.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

My family reads these things? I thought the Internet was private!

A friend went into the Clinic this weekend with full-blown preeclampsia. She was bearing twins - 7 1/2 month twin boys.

Gabriel is 1.2 lbs. Xavier is 2.5 lbs. "They fit in your hand." They are well-formed and apparently all right. And so is she. I am glad someone was paying attention.

My next gig is in five days. What are the chances a performance about the birth of my first son will be cancelled by the birth of my second son? What is that, some kind of sibling rivalry thing?

Saturday, May 14, 2005

When we lost Calvin, I did not miss God. I did not need God. We did well on our own without Him. And if He had been there, I only would have blamed Him. I was better off without Him.

When my friends are in trouble, that's when I get stuck. When I cannot help them, and I cannot pray ... what do I do?

Thursday, May 12, 2005

"Pitocin is the most abused drug in the world today."

Let the Baby decide: The Case against Inducing Labor - use of the drug Pitocin is questioned
Mothering, March-April, 2001

"Pitocin can cause increased pain, fetal distress, neonatal jaundice, and retained placenta; and recent research suggests that exposure to Pitocin may be a factor in causing autism."

Monday, May 09, 2005

Split Focus

I have terrible allergies. I feel as if my head is stuffed with ... stuff.

The big, annual GLTF benefit was Saturday night. I was, you guessed, dressed as Shakespeare for the event, and helped tear-down until a little after midnight. I can't remember the last time I was in the streets of Cleveland that late ... okay, I can, it's when Ali and I had that late date for the Cleve Mag piece I wrote on my so-called nightlife. And that was well over a year ago.

And I have a two year-old and a heavily pregnant wife, so I was down at two and up again at six-thirty. Still haven't recovered from that, and I no doubt won't.

We are in the waiting time, when everyone asks "So? News?" And you just smile and say the usual things.

No, they aren't usual things. Some people I can be frank with. I had the rare opportunity to have an extended, off-air conversation with Dee today. In addition to having a surprising discourse about September 11 (I have set aside that dumb DaVinci book in favor of 102 Minutes) she remarked how calm I appeared in the face of imminent birth. Dee knows the story, and I had no problem telling her that, seeing as how our first son died, we spend a lot more time just focusing on the task at hand and don't bother with the jitters. Or much humor about childbirth, really. At least, not that really obvious kind of humor - you know, all the jokes Bill Cosby told that were so funny ... when he told them. The first time.

I want Morphine, ha ha ha.

So, oh yeah, the due date was yesterday. We are Day +1 and counting. Zelda was two weeks overdue - and they were not fun weeks.

And. As if this were not all enough, I have another performance of I Hate This in 11 days at MetroHealth. Kelly and I will tech the show next Wednesday ... and I just got word that the two performances I have slated for October may be in the same space as this one. That's very helpful. And we are working on a gig in Akron for around the same time. I will get the dates up when they are finalized.

So, uh. Hell. What am I supposed to do next? The dishes? I can't even see straight.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Busted

My first set of X-rays did not reveal any broken bones - because I had a microscopin compression fracture of my heel. X-rays yesterday revealed them - this is bad because it means, yes, I broke my heel, but good because the X-ray showed that's all it was, nothing any more serious, and displayed how well my heel has already begun to heal (hey - a homonym.)

None of this has improved my mood. The doctor said I should not resume training for six weeks. I asked whether he meant six weeks from the impact, or six weeks from now.

He said, "Yes."

So I have no less than three more weeks without running. I will miss two races this month. This just totally BLOWS - it's not enough that I am challenging myself to run a fricking marathon, as if that weren't a steep enough hill for someone like me, but no, I have to give myself an injury (don't ask please, please God do not ask how) and doubt whether or not I can bring myself back up to speed without re-injuring myself.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Share Atlanta

A friend who just moved down south sent me this link, I need to remember to get it onto my I HATE THIS links page.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Thank Heavens!


Private England Pleads Guilty to Abuses

Our long national nightmare is over. The sassy, kinky, white trash private who single-handedly blackened the name of American servicemen everywhere is, at last, behind bars. Now the people of Iraq can go back to thanking us for their liberation and we will finally have those flowers thrown at us.

UPDATE: May 5, 2005
Too dumb to get convicted. How often does the former boyfriend and unmarried father of your child get the chance to keep you out of jail? There's a "You Know You're a Redneck If ..." joke in there somewhere.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

This Is My Job

Found something neat at work the other day - a disk of photographs from the week I spent at Midview High last year. They had taken their time to get it to me, but better now than never.

photo: "A little water clears us of this deed." (Check out the handprint on my head!)

Wow. I couldn't have asked for a better find. In a school year that had its ups and downs, this was probably the best week I and my partner Alicia had together. At first I wasn't looking forward to it - we were teaching four residencies, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Romeo & Juliet and The Crucible, to maybe six different classes.

As it turned out, that was great, everything was fresh in every class, and I remember liking the students a lot. The Caesar class, in particular, was a trip. This was where they put the Juggaloos. A very exciting number of assassins in that class.

Another fun thing about the photos is what a snappy dresser I was that week.

For three years that was my job, and now I "supervise" and help train people to do the same job. It's funny, on the outside it all seems so chaotic, doing the work itself I felt much more in control. Still, it's the best job I've ever had, and probably ever will have. I am still intensely grateful for that. And that's another thing I owe Calvin.