Posted on Jan 23, 2014

Oh geez, another one for dad…this is a doozy.

Way back when I was a kid, (not that way back) my dad and mom were involved with a movement called primal therapy.  Now I don’t  think I’m going to go into a detailed account of what that is, I don’t think I could accurately depict it, but suffice it to say at the time, it seemed bizarre to me.  It involved participants “feeling their feelings” with a “buddy.”   There was a lot of crying and yelling.  It was late in my elementary school career through junior high.  Needless to say, one of the last things on earth I wanted was to hear the wails of my father “feeling his feelings” upon arrival home.  Especially if I had a friend in tow.

So, yesterday I realized I was full up with feeling, and I knew a blog was coming on.

I thought I was gonna write about one thing, then it turned into another, and now this…

I received a grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council to work on a piece I’ve been dreaming.  The piece is about grief.  No big surprise.  Your dad _____.  (If you don’t know why I’m not putting that word down read my last blog.) It became the pivotal event of the year  2011 for me, and has ended up continuing to be close to the fore to this day.

Not like I might have thought it would.

This grief weaves itself in and out of my days. Sometimes in the form of tears, just like I’d imagined, then other days it turns into a really good laugh, or it’s a plain old fashioned deep longing.

Recently I had some days that just felt icky.  I can’t  put my finger on the feelings, just low and slow.  A couple of nights ago I had a dream that my dad fell into the water, at the boat slip where we’ve always kept a boat, in Marina del Rey, and I couldn’t get to him, or reach him.

Interestingly, I wasn’t worried about it in the dream. It was just a fact, and I was reaching out to him.

What is one of the key beautiful lines in THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA?

“I reach
Like these paintings in the old tradition
There’s a figure reaching out in them like so
And to me it is the most familiar tableau
I know”

And I know, from what I’ve gleaned from my grief group, is that I’m not out of relationship with my dad, it’s just all different.  For one thing he doesn’t talk near as much.  I get a lot more in, verbally, that is.

Life just keeps tossing things at me that he would have loved to have talked about.

You see I could call my dad and say, “I heard this guy on this podcast…” and then he’d say “what’s a podcast?” And I’d go into a description, and then he’d say: “How do I get one of those?”  And I’d tell him, and he’d go to the Apple Store and buy whatever he needed to listen to one, and then he’d never listen to one, and then I’d just keep regaling the podcast revelations to him and he’d regale articles from the New York Times science Tuesday, then we’d do the crossword puzzle and then we’d say good-bye till the next time.

So, you see why I miss him?

He was awesome.

So today was the day when just about everything that I did, or heard, made me think about dad.

I’d recently met up with my dear friend, and mentor, and collaborator Jacklyn Maddux. We spoke about grief, because she’s working on GOOD GRIEF with me, and that’s what we do.

We are considering what grief is, when it begins, and myriad other questions.

Is it possible that grief is connected to reaching for something?  Anything?
I’ve come upon the idea that in the container called life an infinite number of experiences exist all at once. This leads me to wondering when grief is introduced into a human being.  Is it in response to an event?  Like watching my dad ___ ?

Are we born with it installed, like getting Safari  on a new laptop?

I’m thinking you’re born with it, and events trigger it to “take the stage,”  so to speak, no pun intended since my dad was an actor.

Jacklyn and I were batting around this idea, and I found something online about babies and grief and the preverbal experience, and what do you know, up comes Primal Therapy.

Dad, you were onto something and I’m thinking of you.

I know that dad believed that Primal Therapy allowed him to move forward in his life.  He told me so, although I don’t know all the particulars.

Was he moving through the grief he was born to?

I’m in awe of my father’s journey toward a lightness in his life, his childhood was, in his words, “hell.”

I wish I could regale all these thoughts to him.

I imagine we’d have an amazing talk on the phone about it all.  He’d interrupt me about forty seven times and we’d circle around and under it all.  It would run the gamut;  Art Janov and Primal Therapy, Joseph Campbell and transformation masks, fear, whatever came up.

We’d disagree, and possibly agree, which we’d both be completely surprised by.

Then he’d ask me to send him all the links to the articles I’d read that had launched us into this conversation in the first place, then he’d ask me “how do you use a link again?”

Then I’d tell him, then he’d never use the link and I’d send him a hard copy of whatever we were talking about, but we would have summed it all up with a shot at the crossword puzzle, each query launching us into another discussion until I had to make dinner, or dad was tired and it was time to part.

He’d tell me what I should do for my next project.

I never took his suggestions too well.  He’d tell me what to work on.  I usually ignored that too. He must have wanted to wring my neck. I knew how smart he was, but lacked the sense to let him teach me. Of course, he taught me anyway…tricky dad!

So dad, you were on the cutting edge, and you planted a seed in me that I’ll be growing

Kenneth Mars

My darling handsome dad

in my quest to be a thought provoking, community connecting artist, but I think you already know that.



  1. Patty
    January 24, 2014

    I am loving every word of this exploration. You’ve got my brain ticking and considering my own grief. It really is NOT good but maybe good will come from it. I will have to hang on to that hope and look back later to reflect on my learning. Thanks for the good ponder. xoxo

  2. Liana
    January 25, 2014

    Grief is a powerful thing, it can tear you down and build you up. I have an angel that shares my dreams sometimes (I miss my daughter terribly) but she shows me things in my dreams only when I truly need it. Im sure your father guides your heart too dear friend. My sure he is reading this blog saying what’s a bog and how can I get one? LOL The few times I met your father I LOVED him. He shares everything primal.
    essential; fundamental.
    “for me, writing is a primal urge”
    synonyms: basic, fundamental, essential, elemental, vital, central, intrinsic, inherent.

  3. Debi Campbell
    January 25, 2014

    so many of us lack the sense to let our parents teach us… lol good parents, good friends, good people, historical giants plant seeds. and when the conditions are right for those seeds to grow, then they grow.
    you inspire :~)


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