Last week I was debating whether or not to visit my bi-polar mother over the holidays. I haven’t spoken with her in over a year now. She won’t answer the phone. According to my brother who looks after her the best he can, she doesn’t want to talk to or see anyone. After her last manic spree, she stopped all medication and has now sunken back into a deep depression. My brother warned me that even if I do visit, she’ll likely refuse to see me. Given the current craziness of my life, I decide not to go.
The next day, I flew to NYC for a weekend a weekend escape with meet Nick who was there attending a laparoscopy conference. Our friend Renee had purchased tickets to a Broadway musical—a perfect escape indeed. Renee tells us that the play’s lead actress, Alice Ripley, won a Tony for her performance. “Alice Ripley,” I thought—isn’t she the lead singer in my friend’s band, Ripley? I Wikipedia’d her. Sure enough, Alice is Ripley. I’ve listened to Ripley for years now. I‘m excited to, after the play, wait by the stage door and tell Ms. Ripley of the coincidence. At the theater, we settle into the excellent fifth row, center tickets that Renee snagged at TKTS. I scan the crowd and notice two friends from San Francisco sitting a few rows ahead of us. Another coincidink. I bask in the serendipity’s warmth.
The orchestra starts and it isn’t long before I realize that Ms. Ripley’s character, Diana, is a bi-polar mother struggling the keep her family intact. When she flushes her medicine down the toilet and sings “I Miss the Mountains” (a song in which Diana chooses the reality of pain over the falsity of drug-induced numbness), I’m a mess. After the play was over, we hurry past the stage door and head anywhere for a drink.
The next day I do my best to forget the similarities between Diana and my mother. Renee, Nick and I kick around SoHo and then dine in TriBeCa at Bread. “Is that Drew Banks,” I hear as we’re being seated. Yet another friend—a fellow Memphian who actually knows my mother—was sitting at the table next to us (and at the table next to him was Moby). Last time I was in New York, he (my friend, not Moby) and I took a long midnight stroll down the Hudson and discussed the impact addiction and mental illness had had on our families. I shiver and as my friend stands up to greet me, I decide to visit my mother after all.
As for the musical, Next to Normal, I highly recommend it…if you don’t mind having your heartstrings tugged.