Beatrice


(john davis) #1

Beatrice, 92 years of age, aphasia, has scrambled her syntax, can’t remember her story, has lost her sense of time. We are sitting in the library of her comfortable home, near the windows, in big plush chairs, a perfect blue sky outside and a row of trees, newly green.I have become her memory. I’m the only person she seems to recognize. She has a worried expression

" Can I ask you a question?" She asks, in an intimate tone, a rich alto voice, scratchy, like the late Elaine Stricth. I nod my head. " Are we married?"

" No, my dear, we aren’t married."

" I feel like I am going to cry," she says, riding a wave of terror. She is dressed elegantly, black tunic with a string of pearls, her hair done up, a soft silver. Her agitation reminds me of a heroine in a Henry James novel, a high strung elegance." I don’t know my address! I don’t know where I live?"

I pick up the unopened letter in her lap and point to the address and tell her, " Sweetheart, this is your address."

She looks blankly at it. " My mother and father," she is getting upset," they live near here, can you find their address?"

" Your mother and father died, Beatrice, over twenty years ago-"

" Oh yeah, I forgot…I want to cry but I must stop myself from crying…"

" And when you stop your self from crying then what happens?"

She says nothing for a long time. Then she blurts out," I feel like a baby-"

" And what does that baby want to have happen?"

She makes a fist with her right hand, puts in on her solar plexus and declares," It is a great power!"

" Is there anything else about that great power?" I point to the gesture she is making.Then she goes into a deeper space, ( my metaphor) and I sit with her for a long time without an answer, without a clue. We are both of us at the edge of our maps-

Later, we are having dinner with two other ladies, with dementia. It is interesting having conversations with three ladies with dementia. No one really knows what time is. None of the ladies can remember if they ordered. They cant hear each other. Beatrice is hard of hearing. I do my best to keep them entertained.

During dinner, Beatrice is all smiles and takes my hand and kisses it. I am a bit embarrassed. She says," I have had a lovely day."

That night, I had a hard time sleeping. I kept thinking about Beatrice and how I could have done a better job. I perhaps should have asked more developing questions and not leaped to the intention of the baby so quickly-oh well…

Then I slip into dream time. I am dreaming. I am in the dark, in a bus, full of shadowy sleeping figures. I become fully lucid. I move towards the bus driver. I touch his shoulder and I ask, " Who are you?"

He turns around and says," That is hard to answer. You see, I have no identity." He looks like a cubist painting, he has several noses, and many eyes, and I am amused and disturbed by my incapacity to understand anything now.

The bus fades and I am in a dark void, floating and feeling fine, and I recite the 23rd Psalm.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…

The words lift me upwards until I feel a kind of bifurcation and I morph beyond the body mind into a kind of dance form. I am the center of a giant tornado and from that still center 'I ’ can spill outward, and from the center, all kinds of abstract geometric images are constantly emerging and then from the ‘root’ chakra at the base of this dream body dancing comes the rush of an ecstatic energy, that feels so good it frightens me. I dont think I can tolerate this ecstasy-

Beatrice has passed away, a few months ago, and I was with her when she transitioned. I have kept good notes on our infinite conversations. I have yet to re-orient myself, after her passing, a beautiful terrible experience, and I feel like the twist in a Mobius strip, both inside and outside, neither inside nor outside, the intermittent zone, a lovely adagio, moving slowly, arm in arm, a warm summer night.

This is a rough sketch of something that I would like to develop further. I share it here because I’m looking for a pattern that connects, and a difference that makes a difference.

And who is driving the bus? I’m not sure it really matters that much anymore. I can just sit on my firescape at sunset and enjoy the tree swaying in the breeze and sip my vino-


(Sue Stevenson) #2

Johnny, this is just … I’m really touched and stilled, and you can’t ask for more than that from a piece of writing.

I’m not entirely sure what you are asking here, and there are maybe others who can answer the question, but this already feels like something fully formed. The way it goes from Beatrice to the driver to the almost unbearable ecstacy - it’s super powerful, and it feels like a natural progression. I just LOVED the fact that the driver was as he was.

I don’t have anything else to add. Hopefully someone else will be able to offer some practicability for you :smile:


(john davis) #3

Thank you Sue for holding the space as I talk out loud about the ins and outs of a very important relationship, a complex relationship that is still ongoing. Her passing has not changed anything, her presence is tangible. I’m not haunted by her, nor morbidly engaged. She has moved on and so have I but there is something missing, I cant get a handle on, something that resists a summary. We all like to have closure, neat and tidy, but this old lady was a magnificent force of nature-and I want to celebrate that.

I recently read a comment by a great literary critic who had breast cancer. She said she felt as if the entire human race was losing its memory. Since memory is such a strange happening, and since the micro and macro dimensions are skewed for most of us in this Internet age it could be a theme that I could develop. I’m certainly attracted to that theme and many of us are grappling with the beast.

And what kind of beast is that beast? A big and really scary beast!

No doubt the Bubbles conversations is a place to develop further these peculiar notions. We never know where and when the next wave will gather.


(Di Shearer) #4

Is it something akin to the traditional ‘communion of saints’ but without the religious binding. There’s a whole world of being(s) out there - who maybe can see and know us while our vision is blind and our time/space sight prevents us from seeing. I love what you wrote and moved into the space of working with my sister in the midst of her breakdown (emotional and mental). Somehow she wasn’t in the same world as I was.


(john davis) #5

I have found the best place to be is with one foot in her world and one foot in my own. If you are too removed from her world there is little chance of contact and if you totally enter her world you might take on her stuff. It is difficult but in the best times I had with Beatrice, though her confusion was immense, there was a wonderful human being under all of that. I saw that charm in her, cherished her, and she taught me so much about my limitations and my need to control. She saw me in a direct way that few people have. And she loved me.

Best of luck to you and you sister!


(Di Shearer) #6

Thanks! Reminds me that ‘there is that of God in everyone’ whatever state they are in.


(Sue Stevenson) #7

So then finishing with Beatrice’s passing is simply not gonna cut it here, is it? :sunny:


(Marco V Morelli) #8

I love these vignettes, @johnnydavis54. This one is not only intimate, but also cinematic. One feels carried along, imagistically, by the swirls of your memory.

And I wonder if you are the bus driver, and your readers the passengers… and when we read, we go on a magic bus, whose route follows the strange loop between self and worlds.

“It is a great power!”

The writing brings Beatrice alive, while blowing up the context for understanding her, or you.

I must note, as well, the personal echoes for me in Beatrice’s name, being the same as that of my younger daughter.

I am also reminded of the sculptor, ceramicist, and “mama of dada” Beatrice Wood, who I learned of through a documentary some years ago. I find it interesting that all the Beatrices I’ve known, or’ve known of, share the larger-than-life kind of personality here brought to life.

Though, what’s in a name?


(john davis) #9

Thanks Marco and Beatrice is a magical name. She was a crazy dame!