So I’m in this play called Marvin’s Room, having been cast about three days ago as Marvin, a man who never actually appears to the audience, and who has no dialogue. Not one line. He makes sounds (he’s had a stroke), but that’s it. He’s behind a scrim, so you might see his silhouette if you’re in the first couple of rows in the theatre.
On paper, the role is a tiny one. But it’s turned out to be huge for me.
Cause the first time I was on that table, making those struggling sounds, the sounds that happen when your language circuits have been fried, I thought, jesus, this is my grandfather. My Gump.
My Gump had a stroke when I was a teenager, and sounded just like Marvin afterward. He’d wave his cane around and whack my grandmother if she was within reach. He didn’t like being mute, and I’m not sure he liked my Gran much at that point. A lot of his softness disappeared with the stroke.
I was an idiot as a teenager, and didn’t think much about what his life might be like, unable to say good morning or show me your headstand (he was in his 60’s when he showed me how to stand on my head) or why the hell is all of this happening to my body.
As an idiot teenager, I just thought, this is what happens when you’re old and irrelevant.
Anyway, he died when I was 21 or so. I was a pallbearer and I remember the coffin being inconceivably light. He was hardly there at all by the end.
So I feel as though I’ve been given a chance to be with him again, and do it more humanely than I did the first time.
Yesterday, I bought Marvin a pair of pyjamas to wear during the play. Never mind that no one will see them. They’re a kind of Wedgewood bue with a white pin stripe, and with blue piping. Light, soft, handsome. Like my Gump.
Here’s to being together even when that happens 25 years later.