One of my favorite things to do on Saturday mornings is listen to Scott Simon on Weekend Saturday. He always carries the right tone for the show: serious, yet at times playful. Around nine twenty, he'll read an essay he wrote that touches on an event that happened that week. Could be the death of Phyllis Diller. Or The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducting Laura Nyro. The one that brought me to tears one morning was a phone call he made to a war widow telling her her late husband was going to get the Medal of Valor. I'm in awe of his essays; since I've been trying to write radio essays I realize that it is hard. Simon never wastes a word. They are almost pitch perfect from the beginning to the special song they chose for the end.
I was saddened to hear that Simon's mother was deathly ill, even more saddened that she died yesterday. How did I find out about it? Twitter. Which is making many people upset. They feel that Simon should keep his grief private. Isn't it a bit tacky to be sharing such intimate things on social media? What's the matter with him? I'm wondering if this isn't a case of privacy. It is what is right for the person.
The past two weeks I've been quiet. Not physically quiet (doubt that could happen) but quiet on the Internet. My father invited me two weeks ago to come with him to a doctor's appointment at the VA Hospital in Fort Miley. "What do you need an ultrasound for?" I asked him on the way there.
"I don't know, but they said it was a good idea."
Dad's always going in for tests. If they offered him a mammogram, he'd take it. I wasn't too worried. We went to the ultrasound place, got Dad set up, then I went in the waiting room. I was going to read, but I didn't sleep well the night before and ended up falling asleep in the waiting room.
"Ms.Gibbons?" Irene the nurse was shaking me. "We need to talk to you."
I felt embarrassed. "Um, I was just dozing..."
"It's not that. It's your father. He lives in the City, correct? Do you live with him?"
"No, Lafayette. Why?"
"The doctor will tell you."
I was a bit freaked. I went to the room. Dad was buttoning up his shirt. "Dad, what's going on?"
"I have no idea. They got lost and are not telling me anything."
Finally a doctor came in, saying Dad had a stenosis near his heart. Left untreated, it could lead to a stroke. Swear words filled my head. They put him on blood thinners right away, then told him to go to a vascular clinic that was being held the next day. We did. At first they wanted to operate right away, but because he was doing better with the blood thinners, they decided it could wait awhile.
Dad was fine. I was a mess. Not on the outside; but inside I kept on thinking I don't want to lose my daddy he's MY DADDY my daddy can't die. I knew I had no control over it. I tried to write everyday. I was scared to death. There were two days where I did nothing but sleep and watch Project Runway. Dad didn't understand. "They caught it on time, what's the big deal?" I wanted to say to him the big deal is I don't want to lose you.
I couldn't write about it publicly yet. It didn't feel right. I truly do feel that people need to have a private life. Many things go on in my family, but it stays in the family. I can be pretty open about myself, but you know what? Not everyone needs to know about what I had for breakfast.
Then I read about Scott Simon. A lot of people were raking him over the coals. Quite frankly, it's not up to me to judge if he did the right thing tweeting about his mother's dying. If it felt right to him, okay. Did it hurt anyone? I don't think so.
A couple of months ago Meranda and I heard Emily Rapp read at the Booksmith in the City. Rapp went through the worst thing possible: finding out her son Ronan had Tay Sachs disease, meaning he would never grow up, never be the son she wanted that was good at solving crossword puzzles, he would die. She started writing about it right away. For her it was healing. She wanted people to know about this little boy.
What was right for Simon and Rapp was right for them. It was right for me to not write about my father right away. There is no right or wrong here. After the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary Anne Lamott did a beautiful speech where she said "There are people who are going to say we need to keep guns, that's okay. There are people that are going to say we need to get rid of guns, that's okay. There are people who think people are speaking too soon, that's okay. All of it is okay."
It's true. It's all okay. Whatever writers decide, as long as it doesn't others (especially themselves) is okay. I send condolences to Scott Simon. Emily Rapp's son died in February, a month before her book was published. She's still grieving, yet is now trying to find a dog. My father goes in for surgery next Monday. It's all okay.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries