12.18.2008

Four... three... two... one...


I was thinking of creating one of those Christmas Card inserts – you know, the kind with updates about the year’s events for the whole family… I’m not going to, but if I did, it would read like this:

House of Young and Gallagher 2008 Recap


Broad trends through 2008:

  • Transition from the House of the Widow Young to the house of Young and Gallagher.
  • Baxter is addicted to superheroes, fictional stories told by his dad, and the art of Kung Fu (which PJ claims to know). Bax also started digging phonics and sounding out words this fall…
  • Baxter now calls PJ “dad.”
2008 Timeline of events:
  • May 23: PJ Gallagher proposes. Danna accepts. They’ll marry next Spring.
  • June: Lonia (Mike’s mom) spends a lovely week visiting with us and has a family dinner with the Gallagher clan.
  • June: Family vacation at a beautiful lakeside cabin in NH. Canoeing and swimming ensue.
  • July: Big family house in Sea Isle with the whole Gallagher clan for a week of sun and fun.
  • August: Danna starts rehearsing with ComedySportz again - with the love and encouragement of one PJ Gallagher.
  • 3rd Annual Laughtastic Sketchopalooza raises another $2000 for the Mike Young Fund at Jefferson Hospital. PJ’s entire family is in attendance. The Fund is now up to approximately $10,000.
  • Autumn: PJ (an asst prosecutor for Atlantic County) argues before the 1st Appellate Court of the Superior Court of NJ (again, with the whole family in attendance) and wins. The decision is going to be published… aw yeah.
  • October: Danna, PJ, Baxter, and PJ’s parents spend a weekend together in Ocean City, NJ.
  • Also in October: Danna decides that the two cigarettes a day she's been smoking since Mike unravelled in March 2005 are no longer a necessary part of her life. Resolves to not buy another pack. As of Dec 18th, we're at 8 weeks of smoke-free living... and counting.
  • October 12: Philadelphia Theater Company plaque is unveiled: Mike “Egg Foo” Young, Funniest Man in Philadelphia, 1967-2006. Almost $5000 have been raised for PTC.
  • October 25: Danna returns to the Saturday night ComedySportz Stage for the first time since 2004.
  • Danna feels that the sun shines brighter since Obama won.
  • Late November: Realizing she’s starting to forget the essence of mindful detachment, Danna starts paying more attention to mindfulness and resumes her yoga practice.

*******

Bridging the Past and Present... through Musical.

So, last night, I had the urge to watch one of Mike’s favorite campy classics, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” from 1954. Mike LOVED this film. Check out the email he sent in 2003 organizing an outing to watch the film on the big screen:


From: Mike Young

Subject: Greatest Musical Ever Made

Sent: 8/11/2003 12:38 PM

This Sunday at 7PM, you have a rare opportunity to see perhaps the greatest musical ever made on the big screen. The Prince Musical Theater at 1412 Chestnut Street is showing Seven Brides For Seven Brothers in a 35mm, Cinemascope presentation. (Cinemascope, in case you're not familiar with it, is a super-widescreen format popular in the 50s.)

Seven Brides (1953) stars Howard Keel, Jane Powell, and a very young Russ Tamblyn, who later went on to star as Riff in West Side Story. It's colorful, corny, campy, and a time-capsule of sexist Americana. Seeing this film will remind you how much progress the women's movement has made. It's genius, I tell you.

Danna and I will be going, and you owe it to yourself to go if you've never seen it. Tickets are $8.50.

Mike Young

************

The film is priceless for its un-ironic misogyny. I knew PJ would get a kick out of it for its insanity. I told him how much Mike loved the film, and PJ eagerly expressed interest in watching it.

That's the thing about Peej. He doesn't get caught up in the emotional baggage of it all. "Mike liked it? Cool. I'll watch it."

The premise of the film is that the protagonist, Adam, a frontiersman, goes into “town,” takes a wife, Millie, and brings her back home. Only upon arrival at the ranch does Millie realize that she’ll not only be living with Adam, but with his 6 unkempt, unruly brothers. Millie takes it upon herself to groom the brothers and teach them how to “go a’courtin.” The brothers try to court the townswomen as Millie taught them, but they soon become frustrated and heartsick with the lack of response.

Like any good older brother would, Adam, finding his brotherly brood … brooding… gives them an instructional and horrifying pep talk in the form of a song. He suggests that the brothers should borrow the approach used by the Romans on the Sabine Women (as in … the “Rape of the Sabine Women”). He suggests that the brothers should kidnap their lady friends… and that eventually the girls would fall in love with them. It’s a classic tale of “No means yes!” … in a very catchy tune:

"Sabine women"

Needless to say, the mantra of our house right now is “On her face she seems annoyed, but secretly she's OVERjoyed!” …nice.

So, we watched the movie last night and laughed our way through the film. PJ acknowledged several times how priceless it was and how he agreed with Mike in his assessment that it is quite the cultural artifact.

It’s funny. PJ and I have our own life together, our own relationship, our own dynamic… But it was so wonderful to feel like – for a brief moment – we were all three sharing something. You’d think that with PJ raising Baxter (Mike’s biological son) as his own child (he is currently working out the adoption process), that I’d feel that sense of togetherness all the time --- but I don’t. Baxter is so different from the toddler he was when Mike was alive and home. As a result, the role that PJ and I play as Bax’s parents now is cognitively distinct from the role Mike played as father to baby Baxter.

But clearly, the feeling I had watching one of Mike’s favorite films with PJ, while sitting on the big plum colored sofa – which was Mike’s sofa from the house on American Street, resonated with me emotionally.

I know this because Mike was in my dreams last night. It felt like he was around all night – and I could see him as though he is here beside me right now. He was healthy and happy. Thin and full of life. His hair was floppy and long. He was wearing a mustard-colored button down shirt with the sleeves rolled up twice and a watch on his wrist. And he was so smiley. His eyes were smiling. I could see the smile lines around his eyes as he threw his head back in laughter – with a sentimental head tilt as if to say, “Aw…. Smoosher, you’re so cute.”

But the best part was, in the dream nothing really happened. Mike was sitting on the sofa beside me – but more importantly, beside us… PJ and me. Mike was angled a bit so that he was looking at us, but PJ and I were the ones sitting up close next to each other. Mike reached out and took my hand in one of his, and then took PJ’s hand in the other. PJ was a little surprised and awkward at first, but he didn’t pull away. We just all sat there for a moment, with Mike holding our hands, head tilted, sentimental and smiling at us.

Two nights ago, I confessed something to PJ. He and I were snuggling up after Baxter was asleep, and we were listening to the new Ben Folds album, Way to Normal. There’s a song called “Cologne,” that’s about a break up and letting go of someone. The chorus is haunting. The last few times I’ve heard it, I have felt a powerful sense that my heart is opening – like when I do a warrior pose in yoga. My eyes get warm and glassy and I feel a complicated combined sense of loss and growth. When I hear that chorus, I feel a compelling urge to look upwards as sing it to Michael.

“Four, three, two, one… I’m letting you go.

I, will, let, go… If you will let go.”

That’s it. That’s what I confessed to PJ. - that I sing that chorus up to the sky - to Mike. And that I feel guilty about it. Guilty for feeling an urge to move forward, but knowing that it's the right thing to do.

For those of you who may be horrified by this little confession, please know that this urge is not about forgetting Michael. He is a part of our lives. His pictures hang in the house. We talk about him with Baxter. Baxter sleeps under a quilt that has pictures of Mike scanned in onto the fabric. For gosh sakes, Mike's ashes still reside in our closet on top of the bureau where PJ and I keep our clothes. So no - this is not about forgetting. It's about allowing myself to move forward.

The thing is – Mike isn’t holding on to me. I get that. But I feel like my asking him to let go of me is my mind’s way of reconciling the convoluted feelings of guilt I have as the wedding to PJ approaches. I feel like if I ask him to let go of me, then I can move forward without feeling like I’m turning my back on him.

Cologne and Ben Folds

(this video is all whacky, but the chorus starts at 2:37 min)

This whole thing is so fucking complicated.

I am glad to say that throughout this process, PJ and I have grown closer. But, I am definitely superstitious – like if the universe learns how much I love him – then shit will hit the fan. So, I don’t write love letters and get all gushy like I have done in past relationships. In fact, I remember taking weeks with Michael to write our own heartfelt wedding vows. I want no part of that when PJ and I have our ceremony. I want Mother Anne to perform the ceremony using simple traditional vows – but without references to “until death do us part.” I’m not going to do some crazy fancy personal disclosure of our courtship and love. A simple: “I do.” “I do, too.” Done. I realize this may sound cold or crass --- But it’s not about my not feeling strongly towards PJ. It’s about not wanting to draw too much attention to the wonderful second chance that I have found here.

Perhaps if we do it quickly, we’ll slip under the radar… and not tempt the hands of fate.

I know, Mike, "it's not fate. It's randomness." I'm still keeping it all on the D.L. - unless the big puppetmaster in the sky is reading this blog. Then I guess the cat's out of the bag, huh?

Foiled again.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

hey, don't you think PJ and Ben Folds share a certain resemblance?
-Marianne

Danna said...

I know, right? W.e.i.r.d.

Here are a few that remind me of peej:

http://images-cdn01.associatedcontent.com/image/A2019/20198/300_20198.jpg

http://www.alarmpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/benfolds.jpg

http://kimmib.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/benfolds.jpg

Anonymous said...

You are an incredible person, with an incredible son and husband to be. Mike is okay with all that is going on, he would want you and Baxter to be happy. You are young and vibrant not a dried up old prund widow. You have honored Mike's memoryin so many ways. You keep him alive in Baxter's heart. PJ seems like the perfect man to step in right where Mike would have been, not as a replacement but as a companion. I personally think there is some kind of divine intervention, and Mike hand picked PJ for you in his own way. You are allowed to be happy and move on, noone should be bothered by any of your posts. You are going in the right direction and I wish you all the happiness in the world!!

Merry Christmas
Love,
JudyB

Heide said...

Danna,

It seems like you have chosen to share your life with R-E-A-L men. Mike: for being such a unique individual and a wonderful dad (even for such a short time). PJ: for stepping into a complex situation with so much willingness, grace, and unconditional love. There are not many men out there who fit the bill. And you are blessed to have loved two of them.

Heide