At 96

A Year of Essays: January 9, 2022

Yesterday, I found this piece I wrote, presumably some exercise from the 2017 Kennedy Center Playwriting Intensive since it was in the stack from that weekend. I don’t remember the circumstances of why I wrote it or where I wrote it. I know it’s mine because it was in my handwriting. However, it has stricken me and still reverberates a day later.

At 96, I looked up once more at the stars and replayed my life. So many things, so many feels. That’s what the kids say these days — “the feels.” On some level, I know what they mean. At 96, I just go with whatever is in front of me. And this night, it’s the stars. Jesus! So many stars!

That one, up there — if you look toward the north — no, you’re pointing the wrong way. Turn to your left. There. North. I think of that as my polestar. The nascent start. When it all started. I don’t know why. But it’s been there since the start. I look at it and through it and see my mother and her sister. My father is absent. The two of them tend to me, suckle me, swaddle me. No question as to what they will do with me — for all they exude is love.

Why isn’t my father there? He’s off exploring the sky. The stars. Going above the earth, not wanting his feet to touch the ground. Sometimes I’m envious of this — I, too, want to fly away, even when I was young, so I could see everything. On this earthly plane, I only see one dimension, one swath, one section of all that is. Up there, I know, I will see more. I search for my father. He’s elusive. Every time I catch up to him, he disappears again. I just don’t know why he escapes me. I’m not silly enough to think it’s me, because on one level, I know that I want to know what’s over on that other side. I get it. And him. And I wonder if we’ll ever be on the same plane at the same time. Obviously, I know the answer to this at 96. I know if we were. But I can’t tell you that story yet.

Fathers and sons are complex. Some say mothers and sons are not as complex, and that only holds partial truth. Others and potential daughters-in-law are highly complicated — that’s for sure — but the mother-son relationship is always contentious, since the fruit of the womb cleaves to another in order to survive. Then another and another, without consequence.

At 96, I know these things. I didn’t know them at 56 or 26. But now, I do. That other bright star? You ask about that. That’s my secret star. You can’t know about that.

Look over to the east. That star there showed me how life could be, and the path I needed to take. I followed that star for many years, and still look at it longingly.

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David Beach is playwright/writer, director, dramaturg, and educator. He holds a PhD in education and an MFA in playwriting, and is a professor at Radford U.

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David Russell Beach

David Russell Beach

David Beach is playwright/writer, director, dramaturg, and educator. He holds a PhD in education and an MFA in playwriting, and is a professor at Radford U.

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