LOVE MY DETOUR
I am a Playwright and an Actor.
First, though, I graduated in the top 10 % of my class at the University of Texas School of Law, in 1970. A rebel with many causes I was able to head to Washington, DC to change the world working with Ralph Nader. In many ways, we did!
For about 30 years that is what I did in various iterations of myself. Lots of ins and outs, ups and downs, but nothing that I would now consider a “detour” as my friend and colleague Amy Oestreicher calls them. I always was in one form or another a Washington Gadfly not unlike my mentor Ralph Nader. Even during my stint (alright “detour”) into the United States Army as a Judge Advocate General Corps Captain, I was a gadfly. At one point the Army even wanted to court martial me for having an “expose” of sorts published in The Nation Magazine while I was still on active duty. (Now that would have been a detour!)
Yet my life as a Washington advocate and policy wonk never changed. Personally, I married Susan when we were both just 20 years old (okay I had just turned 21) and our children came 5 years later, a boy (Marcus) and a girl (Rachael) 18 months apart. They are now in their mid-40’s and both highly successful professionals (Law, our son; Pediatric Dentistry, our daughter)
Sounds pretty much like the journey I meant to take. Of course, there were plenty of bumps in the road, a few curves and bends that we had not fully anticipated. Still, both personally and professionally, we were proceeding down a predictable pathway.
Until April 2000. What happened that year changed everything – 12 years later! Sometimes detours are a long time in their making?
In April 2000 Susan, then my wife of 34 years (now of 50), was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. At one point the Doctors began to send subtle signals to me to “get ready.” An unexpected, post-mastectomy lump on her chest turned everyone — meaning the medical team — “dark.”
It became clear to me at that moment I came to a realization that I was going to accompany the love my life through her last breath. I just could not imagine that I could do it. I was nauseous at the prospect of accompanying Susan through her end of days.
While the story has had a happy ending, Susan thrives today as we approach our 51st wedding anniversary, my journey through that time changed me forever. How do you do THAT?
What I learned during the year of very aggressive medical treatment and then years of her on-going medical treatment and monitoring was what love really means. It taught me that it is possible for two souls to intertwine so tightly over time that “each becomes the other half” of a single “whole.” To lose Susan would be to lose half of myself.
As Susan was slowly returning to a “new normal”, my experience sat smothered inside of me for 12 years. I didn’t understand what it was or how deep it changed me. It was only through the power of theater – and particularly theatrical improv — I was able to begin to tell the story of what happened to me and most importantly what I learned about love. What I could not predict nor imagine is that my ability to tell that story out loud as a form of theater would not just change me; it became my destiny; it also changes the lives of those that heard it.
So in 2012 I started writing about the process and by June of that year I had finished the first draft of a play called, The Actual Dance. After six months of readings and edits, and now 4 years and more than 100 performances later, I realize that I am an Actor and a Playwright.
Talk about Detours. My wife had advanced breast cancer and my life hits a bit arrow in the road that points from law and Washington advocacy to acting and playwrighting.
And the most amazing though is this “detour” took me to right where I was supposed to be.
I love my Detour!