Saturday, December 17, 2016

Retirement, moving, optimism and the man in the moon

"I may have to beg, borrow or steal
Some feelings from you
So I can have some feelings too."

Day sixteen of Neil's retirement. We're doing OK.

It's been a bit of a whirlwind. We spent two days in Austin, followed by two days in Lake Charles last week. It went something like this.

Wednesday, feed the cats, drive to Austin, dinner with Chelsea and Rob, Chelsea's improv show at ColdTowne Theater, sleep at La Quinta.

Thursday, lunch with Chelsea, visit two bead stores, Bath & Body Works, coffee and cupcakes at Quacks, Chelsea's comedy sketch show at Spider House Ballroom. Drive home, stop at Buc-ee's, feed the cats, sleep at home.

Friday, feed the cats, drive to Lake Charles, lunch at Pronia's Deli and Bakery, Bath & Body Works (yes, again), chill at Laurie's, dinner at Cracker Barrel, sleep at Hampton Inn.

Saturday, Luke's graduation from McNeese State University, lunch at 121 Artisan Bistro, drive home, feed the cats, sleep at home, done.

On Sunday we went to the Houston Society of Glass Beadmaker's holiday party at Berry Hill in the Heights. And on Monday, finally, it was back to business as usual, more or less, beads and treadmill. Rinse and repeat.

My mom used to say that when you retire you have lots of good intentions, yet somehow, five years later, you still haven't organized that junk drawer. I suppose that's because you can always do it tomorrow.

Not Neil. He's been an absolute whirlwind of fixing things, sorting through things, rearranging things, and yes, even filling up the recycling bin.

Naturally things get worse before they get better, so there are boxes and stacks of books and things, like obsolete electronics, staged everywhere.

Not only that, but he had lunch dates with former workmates on every day of this week.

I'm sure the frenzy will slow down as he crosses things off his pages of lists, as it sinks in that not everything must be done yesterday, if not sooner.

And I'm not complaining. Anything is better than Star Trek reruns all day every day. He does take TV breaks while he consults his lists and drinks his milk with Nesquik.

Our next trip is at the end of the month. Laurie now is scheduled for baby induction on December 21, my dad's birthday. Her mom will be with her for the first week or so, maybe Luke's mom too. So we've made our plan to go after the first tranche of helpful relatives departs.

We'll stay for a couple of days, come home for a couple of days, and then it's North Carolina again, for a pre-build meeting with the designer and builder and to stake our lot. We're also going to try Airbnb for the first time. I like the idea of establishing a base that we can return to that's more personal and less pricey than a hotel.

I'm actually not sure how manyy trips there I will be making while the house is being built. I know at some point Neil wants to meet with the landscaper. I may or may not go for that. Moving there stills feels more like a bad dream than a dream come true.

I can't talk to Neil about my feelings at all. He has no doubts, no fears, no misgivings. In spite of the fact that he's clearly the more social one of the two of us, he's fully on board with moving to a place where we know no one.

Then again, right now I'm not really feeling my feelings. In my head, I know that I don't want to move. It's the last thing I think about at night, as I sink into my bed that I love in my bedroom that I love and feel held, by the mattress and sheets and blankets. It's the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning. How many more mornings will I wake up in my room here? I don't have the number, I just know it won't be enough.

Today was warm, in a gray and humid way, much too warm for mid-December, and Neil noted that. He longs for seasons, for winter, for cold weather. I don't. But I wouldn't say I'm sad. I'm moving through the days, I'm eating and laughing and watching TV. I'm not tearful or morose or angry.

I'm in denial. That's the only explanation I can think of for my dearth of feeling.

I imagine it will come. One way or another.

I did feel very moved by the finale of Rectify, one of the best television dramas you've probably never heard of. If spoilers bother you and you think you might watch it one day, read on at your own peril.

In a nutshell, the show is the story of Daniel Holden who spent 19 years on death row for the murder of his high school girlfriend, a murder he may or may not have committed but one he confessed to, under duress. High on mushrooms at the time, Daniel has no memories of what happened on the night Hanna was gang-raped and strangled.

Fast forward almost 20 years to the day the show begins, when Daniel is released because forensics have progressed to the point that DNA has exonerated him of guilt for the rape. For four seasons, the story follows Daniel and his family and the ways that his imprisonment has affected and continues to affect every aspect of their lives.

While the show never definitively answers the question of who killed Hanna Dean, it is with Daniel who our sympathies lie from the get-go. Because how could this sensitive, thoughtful, guileless and adorable guy be guilty? We assume Daniel is innocent because we want him to be, because of how he suffered in prison, and because who wants to watch a show about a guy who was guilty and really just got what he deserved?

In prison Daniel was raped by a group of prisoners. He spent his days in a windowless box of a cell. He bonded with a fellow prisoner and then endured the friend's execution, his grief for that lost relationship barely muted by the fact that Kerwin did commit the crime he was hanged for.

I binge watched the first three seasons of the show, which also chronicles the story of sister Amantha, who never doubted Daniel's innocence or stopped fighting for his acquittal. It's the story of Daniel's mom Janet, her second husband Ted, Ted's son Teddy and Teddy's wife Tawney. Daniel makes mistakes, lost in a brave new world of freedom, bias and recrimination. He chokes out Teddy in a provoked rage. He is beaten severely by Hanna's brother Bobby. Trey, a creepy suspect in Hanna's rape does his best to implicate Daniel in the death of George, another suspect.

A bright light in the ensuing darknesss and confusion is Daniel's relationship with Tawney. As Tawney becomes aware that her marriage to Teddy is failing, she and Daniel form a bond that is complex and compelling, a bond born of need and compassion and innocence. At the end of the third season, after Daniel avoids a retrial by plea bargaining a confession to Hanna's murder in exhange for time served and banishment from the state, there is a brilliant scene on a beach where Daniel (we think) is imagining himself being visited by Tawney in prison.

Tawney is lost, she says, Daniel says he'll find her, she says she must find herself. Daniel puts his hand against the glass, but there is no glass. Sometimes there is and sometimes there isn't, she says. As they are about to kiss, the scene cuts to Tawney, alone in her bedroom, and now it appears that it's actually Tawney's fantasy (we think).

I watched the fourth and final season as it unfolded over seven weeks and eight episodes. Daniel is in Tennessee, trying to learn to live, trying to come to grips with whether or not he wants or deserves a life. Tawney and Teddy have separated and are trying to sort out what it is that they really want. Daniel meets Chloe, a free spirit who is better at leaving than at saying goodbye. She's also pregnant. She and Daniel are, as she says, temporarily perfect for each other.

Everyone has grown over the course of four seasons that depict something like a year of their lives. Even Teddy has matured, made progress toward dealing with his anger, which is exemplified by his ultimate sacrifice in letting Tawney go, granting her both support and freedom to find her own way in life.

I have to admit, I was holding my breath, willing Teddy and Tawney not to reconcile, which for a time seemed possible. I think that would have diminished the message of growth, not to mention the profound impact of the Daniel-Tawney relationship. Through the final eight episodes I waited for some closure to that story arc.

I knew it was coming at the beginning of the finale, when a scene with Tawney was included as part of the intro, i.e., "previously on Rectify ..." Near the end of the episode, after the DA makes a press statement that the Hanna Dean case is being reopened, Daniel speaks to family members by phone. Teddy asks to speak to Daniel and apologies are exchanged, then Teddy gives the phone to Tawney, who is waiting for her turn to speak. Perhaps more than anything else, Teddy's redemption is validated when he ungrudgingly hands the phone to Tawney.

Daniel and Tawney each are standing at the precipice of their unique hopeful futures. Tawney has found a purpose for her life. Daniel has opened the door to hope by accepting a willingness to risk disappointment. Tawney wishes him a life filled with wonder.

Amantha sums up the bittersweetness of the story. Nothing will rectify what happened. Convicting the guilty won't bring back Hanna, nor her father, nor all the lost years of Daniel's incarceration.

But as Daniel says, so many more people helped him than harmed him along the way, and even if he doesn't know the reason that he is where he is now, that doesn't mean there isn't one. He's doing the work, he's getting therapy for trauma, we believe that he will be vindicated of wrongdoing and be able to move forward without the baggage of doubt about his own innocence. He feels a responsibility not to let everyone who helped him down, not to let himself down.

The show ends with another brilliant sequence. Daniel is in his room and then he is in a field full of light. Chloe is there too, and her baby, who smiles at Daniel. Daniel takes the baby and it is a moment of pure joy and grace.

Of course we don't know if it's a dream, a vision, a flash forward or a premonition. The takeaway I think is that Daniel is open to hope, to the possibility of a future filled with beauty and love and wonder.

And what, you ask, does this have to do with retirement, moving, beads or the man in the moon?

I think it comes down to optimism.

To prevailing against odds.

To staying open and hopeful.

To embracing a life filled with wonder.

I read an interview with show creator and writer Ray McKinnon, and was struck by this quote.
But back to your question on the redemption, or perhaps the optimism, of this season. As I got deeper into the characters and into the show and to the philosophy of life, even though we all know, or most of us do, undeniably, that we're going to die, we're going to cease to exist in this realm, we continue to live in this realm with some optimism and that's part of our human nature.
So there's that.

Maybe it's OK to move forward without sadness, without questions, without answers, simply with optimism. For today, I'm going with that.

Even if I can't completely feel it.

I'm numb as a statue
I may have to beg, borrow or steal
Some feelings from you
So I can have some feelings too

I'm pale as a ghost
You know what I love about you
That's what I need the most

I'm gonna beg, borrow or steal
Some feelings from you
I'm gonna beg, borrow or steal
So I can have some feelings too

I don't care if it's superficial
You don't have to dig down deep
Just bring enough for the ritual
Get here before I fall asleep

Ain't nothing special
When the present meets the past
I've always taken care of business
I've paid my first and last
Now can I get a witness?

(Warren Zevon)

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz