I want to be cheery; I want to embrace all of life’s magical wonders. Hah? What wonders?
Who am I to complain? Who am I to ask for the spotlight? I was brought up to be accomodating; to step aside and let other people go first. My father thought that was the definition of class. Other people need to make it more; other people need accolades; let other people take your place.
Work harder and do your work better than anybody else. Hear all the empty compliments about your team spirit; your willingness to work through the night and all weekend even though you had a reservation at a restaurant you really wanted to go to with a man you really wanted to know better. That part my father hated. He couldn’t understand why I would work seven day weeks.
He did but, at night he worked at home, and he always took time to socialize. But I had to spend my life proving my worth
Because daddy you taught me to keep on working until it was right; you taught me that you might think me the most beautiful brilliant wonderful girl in the universe but I wasn’t supposed to expect to feel the same. “My problems,” minor as they were, and I know now how truly minor league they were, were supposed to keep me down on the farm–or in Midtown Manhattan, our version of down on the farm.
My problems that you harped on long after I had really solved them took center stage because I loved you, and needed to prove to you and you alone how normal I was. Normal and unassuming. But I couldn’t be really normal, could I? I looked like you; except for the mustache and nose; my one perfect feature that even you couldn’t find fault with.
A goddamned nose; I have a perfect nose. My one goddamned saving grace; and yes I had great bones and yes my figure was good except when I was too fat or even too skinny–and I was usually ten pounds too fat, and sometimes ten pounds too skinny.
I spent my life wanting to please you. Only you; you were all that counted. Husbands, boyfriends, friends, bosses, who were they? You were the modest self made Max Savage, a 70’s millioniare at a time when a million bucks meant something.
You cautioned me to be modest; to not let people know; to be wary of men. For you were sure that they would only want me for my mythical money. Only you insisted that I live on Fifth Avenue, well just off it in an apartment that would have been a tenement had it been somewhere not off Fifth in the East 60’s. I was 25 and tired of fighting you so I agreed.
25, and most people thought beautiful. But I could count on you each week at dinner to point out everything that was wrong with me. While you were telling me your problems and asking, me, and me alone for advice. I was smart enough to help you with your problems, but I wasn’t supposed to be ambitious for myself. Except when I was working for the senatorial candidate, and you would come to the office and see how everybody really did like me.
I knew that you were shocked and that you really didn’t believe that your 25 daughter was worthy of all the attention. It was the first time since I was young that we were for the same candidate. Shocked many people; but I was and always have been a centrist at heart. There were five candidates in the primary; two were bona fide intellectuals and we both admired brains. I worked for the less radical one. You viewed it as a brilliant career path for me, but you let me know how much less polished I was than most people there. I hired you anyway; you were a brilliant accountant, and they were always needed.
I didn’t realize then, that at 62, you were still young. Coincidentally, you would become the chief American CPA for the largest company in an Asian country, and the accountant/manager for a superstar dancer who had recently defected from the former Soviet Union soon after. Though you had always been successful the next ten years would be the most successful and personally fulfilling of your career. You taught me that second acts were not only possible but probable, and for that I will always be grateful. When you met all the Russians you finally found people who agreed with your politics, were intellectual and interesting. I admired the way you found both other CPA’s and Conservatives to be boring. I admired everything about you. I knew how much you loved me; I so rarely pleased you, though.
You were magnetic; when I worked in the Senate campaign you discovered that I could be too. I have to admit that I wasn’t dating one of the two nice Jewish boys I worked with. We covered for each other. Jay was sleeping with the 49 year old secretary for the candidate; and I had my one and only affair with his bodyguard; a retired police lieutanant. You and mommy would come to all the parties I hosted at the campaign headquarters. Since you had never seen me in my element before, you were shocked at how comfortable I was.
With my baby face, complete line of Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dresses, and body to fit the dresses perfectly, it was easy for me to socialize. The candidate, his wife and their friends all liked me. Another confession: we young un’s were all stoned, and everybody else had hit the bottle earlier. When I smoked pot I was the friendliest person; actually you liked me better stoned. I would call you when I was stoned because I knew that we wouldn’t fight.
Oh but the campaign; it was the perfect metaphor for the 70’s; hard work and hedonism. God did I love the 70’s. My life had been charmed since my first day of college. I walked into the senate candidate’s office one day to volunteer and was offered a job the next day. Things like that happened to me. In some ways I expected that to always happens; in more important ways I was so your daughter.
Jay and I would time things so that his parents, and mommy and you would come after the initial activities which took place in back rooms. No not the affairwith Mike, the bodyguard; I had an apartment 20 blocks and an avenue away. Oh, one more thing I had my only menage-de-trois. With Jay and the senate candidates secretary. It was fun but I had no desire to repeat the experience. I had too many high points in my 20’s to say that this was the highest point; but it was fun.
Famous and rich people would ask me to their houses. But I was right to suspect the motives behind the woman who lived six blocks from me; the former beauty queen who later became embroiled in scandals. One scandal involved a young woman much more screwed up than I could have ever been. The former beauty queen was looking to be admired, and I was a girl with potential; no time to listen to her two hour phone calls and go to her house on demand. Later during the scandals you realized how right I had been and how easy it could have been for me to be sucked into her world.
But you couldn’t say that to me; you couldn’t give me the satisfaction of telling me that I had been right.
You were always telling me to be modest, so I tried to be. You couldn’t see that this was a rapidly changing world; one where modesty was frowned upon. You made fun of “women’s lib,” that old forgotten phrase. You didn’t understand that I needed to be liberated. That success didn’t come to the best or the brightest, but to the ones who could claw their way to the top.
I looked like the perfect package. I wasn’t shy as you thought; obviously not. I lacked the inner foundation that would have allowed me to take credit for my accomplishments. I lacked the claws; I was a frigging team player who was always giving other people credit; always giving other people room to achieve.
Yes, damn it, I made the perfect manager. I could see strengths and weaknesses like nobody’s business. Or more to the point, I made other people’s businesses thrive, because I stood in the back, and pushed people to the spotlight, though I wanted my turn. I understood that they didn’t have money or weren’t well bred and therefore needed the break more than I did.
Now they have the money, and who the hell cares about being well bred? I wasn’t an heiress; though you tried to make me believe that I was one. I knew you like nobody else did, except maybe mommy. I knew that you were almost as good at losing money as you were at making it. I knew all of your weaknesses.
Yet still you were always my hero. Even when I knew that it was it time for me to buy a business and a coop, and you knew it too. But…there were always so many buts. I don’t know how the business would have gone, but it wouldn’t have broken me or us, and would have been a hell of a lot smarter than investing a million dollars in such stocks as Eastern Airlines. A coop on the Upper West Side in the 1980s? A frigging no brainer. You put so many buts into the equation that Madonna bought the apartment I was supposed to buy. Yes, I have my own Madonna story. Unfortunately it’s not one I chose to talk about.
She’s just a few years younger than me, but what a difference those few years made. Oh I understand. She didn’t have my advantages; she wasn’t brought up to be a lady. Ironic isn’t it? No of course I wasn’t a singer; I can’t even carry a tune. But I had many gifts that you hadn’t given me. I could tell better stories than you could, and instead of being happy for me, you complained to mommy about the unfairness of it. You worked so hard at story telling and it came so naturally to me, or so you told mommy. Yet you loved being with me. Ciara, your younger daughter to whom you really didn’t shower love, so she has a whole other set of problems, said that you and I had one conversation always going with each other, and another with the world.
About six weeks before you suddenly died, you apologized to me for having been so critical and so negative about all my plans. Ironic wasn’t it? Most people thought that I was almost too independent, but I really wanted you to be proud of me. That was all.
Rationally I knew that I could be proud of myself, but you were my daddy, my childhood hero. Funny to know that I was so loved, and I had no Electra complex, that part was all resolved; but to be so needy of your approval. Not that you interfered with my personal life. You did ask about my sex life.
“Pia, two most important things in life; a good sex life and a good bowel movement.”
You weren’t supposed to say things like that to me, I think. I never answered but they were both great.
So were you. I’m glad that you did know that I thought that when you were alive. It’s been fourteen years and I’m just beginning to miss you. Think I needed a break.
Our relationship was convaluated, complex, contradicatory. Don’t worry, mommy and I had a more complicated relationship. We had such an easy relationship; first as mother/daughter then later as friends. But after you died she began telling Ciara and I exactly what to do. She turned into you.
Ciara felt honor bound to tell you the truth, and, uh, yes mommy. I could yes you to death and do what I wanted to do, but no way could I ever be less than completely honest to mommy.
I should have begun writing seriously after you died, but Social Security and then social work drained me. Last thing I wanted to do then was become introspective after work. Then I was just drained. It’s only now that I have finally come to terms with my ambition. Hey, you taught me about second acts.
This post is dedicated to the memory of my parents. My dad died on March 31, 1991, the night before the stock market began its huge jump upward. Damn it daddy, you missed the 90’s. He used to tell us that we owned a bit of The Trade Center, until the bonds were all called. My mom fell and died, on October 13, 2001 of a broken heart
This post is also dedicated to the memory of everybody who died on 9/11