Last Lists of My Mad Mother
LIFE PLAY COMING TO THE END
By Nevin Ulusoy
Loss and sorrow are two of the things we cannot change, we have to experience in our world. Sometimes, especially when we are satisfied with everything or most of the things in our lives, we want to escape from all kinds of change, desire everything going on in the same way, but change is inevitable. Time goes on, the sun does not heat us as it used to do, our eyes start seeing more dimly and we see that the people we love, we care for cannot always be with us. Life does not consist of laughter and joy only, pain and sadness are part of human exsistence, through them we come to understand the real meaning of ourselves actually. Theatre, a world of acting, the bright mirror of our daily pursuits, life all through a play, a play all through lives, a struggle to reach a meaningful existence, with all the emotions that make us human.
Julia Jensen’s “Last Lists of My Mad Mother” is a play reminding us we have to live with the reality of loss as human beings. A playwright of more than thirty plays, she also worked in Hollywood. “Last Lists of My Mad Mother” was published in 2000. It is about a woman, a mother who has Alzheimer’s disease and her two daughters, Dot and Sis. Dot is with her mother all through her illness, Sis is a person who is so far away, just a voice on the telephone, dictating things only. Their father is also dying, of cancer and Dot is all alone with them, watching, helplessly, how they decay, as she does all she can for them, leaving all her personal life behind.
We are given limited time, it is the reality of our play here. It is part of the cycle of change, as we live with this reality we know that all our loved ones are with us in a world of eternity.
Dot tells us about her mother’s illness, her crumbling memory. Ma remembers bits and pieces of things, at different times, insists on impossible things, trying to keep on the schedule as she remembers it. Going to the post office in the morning, as if it was like the old times when people used to receive lots of letters and postcards. She believes in the adverts to trick her, never listening to her daughter goes on doing and saying the things on her mind. Watering the flowers, one of the things she will forget how to do in a short time. Dot tries to resist her mother, in vain, does everything in the way Ma wants them to be done. As they play with cards, Ma does not stick to the rules, takes more cards, there is nothing Dot can do, but just let her. The father, somewhere in the house, cannot even get out of his bed and Dot wonders when it was the last time that her father could walk around, those times seem so far away. Sis keeps calling all this time, sounds really artificial. She cares only about herself, it seems she thinks herself beyond all these things, being a fit, beautiful woman with a family and life of her own. The music, so sad, accompanies the story of this woman fading away and her daughter seeing, hearing, in an utter helplessness.
Ma insists on going for a ride. They drive to the same place three times a day. Dot goes through such things everyday, again and again.
Theatre, a world of acting, the bright mirror of our daily pursuits, life all through a play, a play all through lives, a struggle to reach a meaningful existence, with all the emotions that make us human.
DOT: “…Out to the Manderfield, and back, up to the mouth of the canyon and back, and out to the body of the dead deer and back. This last one, the body of the dead deer, is something she found a couple of years ago. She’s visited it everyday three times a day since then.”
MA: “Slow down now, honey. We’re coming close to that deer.”
DOT: “I slow down like she says. But she says it again, just like she never said it before. Everything goes on and on that way.”
Dot sometimes wants to kill her, but through the play we see how much she cares for her mother, how strong her love is, how she has admired her since her childhood. As Ma says “I love you” at the end of the play, with her blankly staring eyes, motionless face, our hearts are broken, as Dot cries for her, for her loss, in the agony of her pain. She understands how fragile the mind is, however strong we may be, everything comes to an end and another phase of life begins, in a way we do not exactly know, just feel and see as a blessing for the exhausted bodies and minds.
We live, love, laugh, cry, suffer and share in this planet, this planet we call our home, so fascinating and adorable. A stage for all our experiences, good or evil, joyful or sorrowful and we need a rest then, like the sun in Nightwish’s “Sleeping Sun”, “Wistful oceans calm and red, ardent caresses laid to rest.” We are given limited time, it is the reality of our play here. It is part of the cycle of change, as we live with this reality we know that all our loved ones are with us in a world of eternity.