The Only One to SEE

My world was very nearly rocked in the worst possible way …

It was February 4th, my mom’s birthday, falling exactly two weeks before my birthday earlier this year. Tina and I had just returned home from an afternoon out and about taking our mom to and fro for celebratory birthday fun. I sat at my desk, Tina in the chair at my side chatting over this and then that. My cell phone rang. Doodle! (My dad- once asked him if he’d ever had a nickname to which he answered “no”, and well, he’s been “Doodle” ever since.) “Hola!” I answered. “Hi, honey, I … think you need to come get me. I think I’m having a heart attack.” I crumpled, voice wavering,“We’re on the way.” Click.

We ran to the car, as I dialed my dad back, dumbfounded that I’d been stupid enough to hang up in the first place.

Standing, grabbing the purse still at my feet, repeating the dialogue to Bean just as there was a knock at the front door. Shane. Bean opened the door with the words “We need to take our dad to the hospital, he thinks he’s having a heart attack.” A fine how-do-ya-do there, though, Shane being the ball of awesome that he is, seamlessly countered with “Deborah, do you want me to drive?” as Bean gathered her things. “Yes, please,” I choked out, tears already streaming down my cheeks as I walked forward on knees quaking, liquified with terror. We ran to the car, as I dialed my dad back, dumbfounded that I’d been stupid enough to hang up in the first place. He answered. Still dad. Still there. In pulling up to his house, he walked out, normal as could be, a faint closed-mouth smile even. He sat down in the backseat, patting my hand, a gesture of comfort for me, for goodness’ sake, as he attempted to answer our barrage of questions.

In the ER, we stood second in line to check in, a glance at the waiting room revealing a nearly packed house complete with an ever-wailing toddler. Entertained the idea of reaching across the desk and clasping the collar of the woman on duty in want- in need– of her attention, as I felt every second in passing, fearful of their impact on my dad’s life. There was a time I’d have done so without a thought otherwise, but frustration quickly evaporated leaving only desperate tears and I barely contained myself in bringing her up to speed once our turn arrived. We were told to have a seat, someone would be with us shortly. Sit, we did, but soon my dad’s face tensed and he said the pain was intensifying. Quickly back at the desk, I croaked out the words, “Please, my dad says the pain’s stronger …” and she then motioned us back.

We sat on chairs out in the hallway while our gowned dad was wheeled into room 8. My fear was palpable. For every dozen thoughts that ran through my mind, one slipped from my lips as I tried to reconcile what was happening with the very best and worst possible outcomes. Kept overhearing chatter at the nearby desk and nervously wondered aloud about its relevancy while Bean repeated that it was nothing, don’t worry, everything was gonna be fine. Knew very well that I was being pacified and though I prefer hard ugly truth over blissful unawareness 9.99 times out of 10, I longed to believe what Tina spoke out loud over the panic that threatened to consume my every thought.

Even now, I marvel at what peace it brought me for that moment

Then, a nurse, in speaking to another, said it, “The patient in room 8 is having a heart attack.” Workers began rushing into his room. Bean’s till-then calm features sank with worry and I’ll never forget how the image I was fixed on as my rock- her face- changed to reflect what I’d been struggling with all along in my mind. Felt like I fell hard and no one caught me. Bean hurriedly rushed out to the waiting room to collect Shane, returning as we were all ushered into room 8. There’s my dad fully alert and cracking jokes and charming the nurses- the women folk- as he does, while he was prepped to undergo an angioplasty, a procedure that allows the clearing of blocked arteries. Even now, I marvel at what peace it brought me for that moment seeing him still just being … him amidst such a terrifying situation.

Sitting in that waiting room waiting for the results of what my dad was undergoing was a different story, nothing less than sheer hell, facing the possibility that the one person who more or less, knows me inside and out for the better of it, the only one who sees me, would be, could already be, forever gone, was truly a worst fear realized. I ached for someone to hold me, to be buried in until news arrived. A vision of Sweetums alone, an oversized and gruff Muppet (Lord, I know), came to mind. The thought that “one does not need to feel faith, but only have it” rang through my head, and I pondered how that was to be put into practice in the present situation. Had a brief and intense conversation with God in which I told him that a Muppet clearly wasn’t gonna cut it, could He please send me someone already, alive, a tangability. When the cardiologist arrived with the happy news of a successful procedure, I asked if I could hug him, neglecting the wait of an answer and nearly bowled him over with a massive one and surely would’ve climbed him like a tree had he been any taller.

I neglected to share the news of what had occurred with the closest of friends

In the nights to follow after returning home from a constant vigil during the day in the ICU, I was thrilled to respond to varying emails, of all things, as it provided me with a most desired stabilizing normalcy. In the passing weeks, I neglected to share the news of what had occurred with the closest of friends mostly because many had their own set of difficult circumstances to be dealt with at the time, and furthermore, simply put, sharing it made it real. You know? With June came my dad’s birthday as well as Father’s Day and with them, all those pushed down and temporarily squelched fears of potential loss reared up to be dealt with, compounded by time, and they really did their number on me for a stretch there.

The best of updates, my dad’s been an exemplary patient! Instituting exercise and dietary changes, employing a most stellar attitude, through an example of perseverance, he’s built my hope in places where others have tried their best to tear it down this year. His doctors are astounded with the healing he’s received and rave of his accomplishments. I tell you, there’s not enough pride displayed in the whole flippin’ parade to encompass the amount I feel in calling him my father. My dad. And, of course, the fairly funny part lies in the fact that he had a heart attack on his ex-wife’s birthday. Le haha. Oh, and guess what I arrived to find that following morning of his first night in the intensive care unit? The RN had nicknamed him “Sweetums.” ♦

Sweetums Written On Whiteboard

Mind the Death Star

While out n’ about in Pioneer Square this past April, a poster caught Bean’s eye. The Experience Music Project | Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, EMP | SFM, would be presenting a most delightful exhibition come summer: Jim Henson’s Fantastic World to be housed in the SFM portion of the building due to Henson’s contributions on such sci-fi works as Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. But, did I mention The Muppets? Oh, yes, MUUUPPEEEEETS!

Immediately checked out the website listed on the poster upon arriving home, but somehow allowed a delay in time to occur before actually mailing off the volunteer application. Soon after, an email arrived from the volunteer coordinator stating that, though, all positions had been filled, I was at the top of the list of replacements. Soon after that, another email arrived with an offer to meet up to discuss my joining their volunteer team. (Insert “Wocka, wocka, wocka!” here.)

Spied one particular visitor writing on one such wall in an altogether different fashion

Upon exiting the large ‘n’ locked double doors from the inner workings of the building, I’m careful to mind the Death Star as I turn right at The Omega Man’s replica of Charlton Heston. A short meandor more, and I spy Kermie housed in a large glass encasement, this particular model created in 1972, used in many a performance, and sporting an impressive five, five fingers. Evolved, he is! There are multiple colorful n’ furry walls floor-to-ceiling all about the place for visitors to write on with hands n’ fingers swirled about in all the furriness. Spied one particular visitor writing on one such wall in an altogether different fashion, “Oh Billy,” from Midnight Express sprang to mind. I enter my domain nestled smack in the center of multiple rooms all branching off in the telling of various facets of Henson’s life, filled with the nifty traveling memorabilia issued by the Jim Henson Company and the Smithsonian, the conceivers of the exhibition, among others. And what exactly is my domain?

Mudgarden Experience!

Mudgarden Experience
An interactive portion of the exhibit in which visitors are presented the opportunity to man their very own Muppety puppet (to earn true “Muppet” designation, puppets must be created by the Jim Henson Company) as a member of the band Mudgarden Experience in a night club, The Rainbow Connection, jamming to any one of a select set of songs. The title of Mudgarden Experience is based on the local Seattle musical history (honey, Sound, The Jimi Hendrix) and features four puppets created by local puppeteer, Annette Mateo, with actual “Muppet” fleece material (!) and blessed by the Henson people in the images of the following musicians:

Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain
Carrie Akre (Goodness, yay!)

Carrie Akre
Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix
“Animal Moon” (a melding of Animal from The Electric Mayhem and The Who’s Keith Moon)

Animal Moon
The exhibition’s been to multiple states thus far, though, the EMP alone has designed and produced this highly wonderful accompaniment to the entire experience. Sadly, Miss Piggy is no where to be found, as she was the creation of Frank Oz, and destined for a future exhibition all her own. Besides, she doesn’t travel well, I hear. Telling that to die-hard Piggy fans is another story! I’ve encountered more than a handful of indignant and dismayed folks in want of their Miss!

Seattle Street
Highlights lie in gazing out over the crowd located on the Seattle Street stoop (homage to Sesame!) awaiting their turn after the brief introductory spiel. Locating those gathered at the crowd’s edges with the barely contained glee all over them squelched by just a tad too much timidity has become a little game of mine. They nearly always turn me down when I first approach them with such words as “And how ’bout you?” Within minutes they’re back, and I wave or nod at them in recognition. They leave again, only to return a short while later and I’m more than thrilled to get them all set up. “Set up” includes lining the puppeteers up at the stage, calling out “On your knees, please, puppet hand straight up in the air!”, pointing out the monitor in front of them where they can see what their puppet performance looks like to the audience, and lastly, my favorite part, announcing their performance as I start the music. Adults become children, and children stay children and the world remain’s sweet a while longer.

EMP | SFM Volunteers
Other highlights include being enveloped in an oh-so-unique building designed to look like a smashed guitar, having the Guitar Gallery (the history and development of said instrument) at my disposal, and perusing the “IF VI WAS IX: Roots and Branches”, a towering sculpturesque wonder comprised of more than 500 musical instruments. I’m fond of selecting my wants from the mass, having accumulated the white-washed bass fiddle near the tip top, an accordion midway down, still on the lookout for a nice banjo, and have yet to locate an acoustic guitar to my loving.

ASIDE: Each time, that accordion brings to mind my uncle. In perusing a relative’s photo albums, happened across a photo of him playing one, and as it turns out, many years ago, he performed with a band. I’ve repeatedly asked for a performance to no avail, I think he thinks I’m mocking him or something, though, I mock not! Come October I’d like to hunt him down and make him play, as it’ll be his birthday. That may sound like a backwards birthday present, but I think he’d really appreciate it after the fact, and you’d think so, too, if you saw the look on his face in that photo.

The stuff to make a designer a little lightheaded and prone to a dead faint.

Lastly, the traveling exhibition located upstairs contains posters created over many decades from Hatch Show Print, one of America’s oldest operating print shops! Gorgeous prints advertising all kinds- vaudeville shows, state fairs, the Grand Ole Opry, Presley, musicians galore … oh yeah, and Cash. John and June. Pitter, le pat! The exhibit’s rounded out with the display of many a block of wood and metal type- the templates from which the posters were composed and then printed from, the stuff to make a designer a little lightheaded and prone to a dead faint. Luckily, the carpeting was soft …

This endeavor’s been a step towards “work for Sesame Street”, an item on my “goals” list, as Henson created many of the show’s original characters. Found out some time ago that the Sesame Street empire is really rather a small company (sadly, with a significant number of layoffs early this year in fact) and as I’m not meant to be a hardcore solely dedicated puppeteer (a main requirement), the likelihood of employment is slim to none. Still, I’d gladly act as an honorary gopher for a time in order to catch a glimpse of all the inner workings, or better yet, serve up a little artsy paintsy designerly contribution. If I could just meet Maria and tell her how pretty my dad always said she was and high-five Kevin Clash/tell Elmo a joke, that’d be the Oscar in my Grouch. Still, till then, I count it a step closer. ♦

Cookie Monster doesn’t eat real cookies! The butter and chocolate would damage his Muppet fur. Instead, the propmasters give him fat-free oatmeal cookies or rice cakes decorated to look like cookies. Jip!