Tag Archives: Dylan Thomas

That Good Night

I have always loved Dylan Thomas’ exhortation to his dying father:  Do not go gentle Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Nightinto that good night.  Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas on cover of poetry bookYes, I thought, “old age should burn and rage at close of day.”  But Dylan Thomas knew something I didn’t, I think, even when he wrote those words.  He was still a young man, but he knew something that becomes apparent with age:  sometimes it’s time to hang up your hat and say goodbye. Evidently, he never showed the poem to his father.  He wrote it for himself – the child pleading to, and for, the father.  He knew, maybe, that what his dad wanted was to go peacefully and quietly.

Mom holding dog Feb 2012Four weeks ago my mother, my remaining parent, died.  I know in my sensible brain that it’s good that her death was quick and peaceful.  But there’s another part of me that says no, you should have fought to stay, you can’t leave me.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, when you lose your final parent, you feel orphaned.  What will you do without parents?  Driving through our hometown, my brother tried to remember the name of people who used to live in a house near ours.  “There’s nobody to ask now,” he realized, “I’m the one they’ll come to now for answers and I don’t know.  Mom knew.”

You lose your family’s corporate memory when your parents die, all the little bits of information about whose house was whose, where the neighbours moved to, what their dog’s name was.  Does it matter?  Ruby-1939-Pine-StYes, in the history of a community or family.  No, in the continued existence of that community or family.  Other families become the old neighbours who moved away, the next generation become the family elders.  But, like with photocopying, with each generation there’s a loss of the depth and colour of the original.

My mother had Alzheimer’s for the past few years.  She still knew us but didn’t remember many other people.  I hated the disease.  I hated seeing her sharp mind shut down; cried, after leaving her, when she asked “who’s X?” when X was a family member.  Cried even more when she stopped asking, stopped trying to figure out who people were.

However, as she accepted her dementia and came to terms with it, so did I.  Often I’d wonder about something and think I’ll ask Mom, then would remember she wouldn’t Ruby Grace Burwell Anger obitknow any longer.  After her death, I caught myself taking pictures because “Mom will want to see this,” only to remember she was gone.  But it wasn’t the huge shock to me that it would be if she’d had her mental faculties intact.

Maybe that’s a gift that Alzheimer’s gives survivors.  You’ve had to come to terms with losing your loved one before she or he is actually gone from this life.  It is a gradual process, thereby maybe gentler at the ultimate end.  Maybe, as Dylan Thomas’ dad knew, that’s what we all wish for at the end, going gentle into that good night.  My mother went gently, and for that I’m glad.

Coronation Street Scene of the Week (June 10/12)

Caitlin Thomas wrote a book about her life and marriage to the poet Dylan Thomas.  She Anne accosting Carla while she talks to Petercalled it Double Drink Story.  I thought of it in the scene on Wednesday when Carla is dealing with Peter, drunk as a lord, on one side of her and Anne Foster, also drunk as a lord, on her other side.  For Peter, being drunk and nasty is habitual.  For Anne, being nasty is but being drunk isn’t.  Presumably her overindulgence in drink is due to grief over the murder of her son Frank.

Peter in Rovers sulkingBoth of them going at Carla about different grievances they have.  Carla had enough to handle staying calm while Peter blamed her for all his problems and everything else he could think of.  When Anne grabbed her arm, I thought Carla was going to clock her.  She didn’t.  Soon after Carla shoves Peter from her in Roversshe gave Peter a shove.  I think Anne would have got one fairly soon too.

I was waiting to see how this was going to escalate when the arrival of the police disrupted it.  Carla’s arrest for Frank’s murder ended the dramatic moment for that group of three.

Carla being arrested in Rovers for murderBeing arrested for murder in the middle of a crowded pub is pretty dramatic, especially when it’s the pub in your neighbourhood where you’re a regular.  But I had wanted to see the situation between Peter and Carla and Anne and Carla, and quite likely Peter and Anne unfold as it should.

Peter surprised when Carla lashes out at himTwo scenes at Friday’s end were lovely too.  Theatrical set pieces for two; first Peter and Carla, then Lewis and Audrey.  Bookend pieces about relationships and life.  Peter comes home to find Carla burning the factory contract that Michelle had taken.  He yells at her for destroying evidence.  He yells at her because his Carla tired of Peter moaningproblems are way more important than hers.  Simon has again said he doesn’t want to live with his father and that Peter is the world’s worst father.  Carla, in complete incredulity at the extent of Peter’s absorption in his crowded world of himself, says they ought to put that on a mug.   Instead Carla explains her feelings to Peterof telling him to stop acting like a 3 year old himself, she relents and tells him why her own situation is most pressing on her mind at this particular moment.

Across town, another tiny gem is about to unfold.  Audrey goes to find Lewis before he leaves town.  In his grotty little bedsit, she tells Audrey asking Lewis to stayhim about an earlier discussion at the Bistro about “where were you when JFK was killed?”  She tells Lewis where she was and that it feels like yesterday instead of 49 years.  Life passes too quickly and it and love should be grabbed and enjoyed.  And she says “I love you” to Lewis.  Aaahh!

This is my last scene of the week for a while.  Check back in, dear readers, in a month or so.  I’ll be back.

The Boat House, Laugharne

Portrait of Dylan Thomas by Augustus JohnWhen I was in high school, I discovered the beauty of Dylan Thomas’ writings.  I first read Under Milk Wood and then moved on to his poetry.  In community college, I was lucky enough to get an English teacher who let me pick my own course content.  I picked Dylan Thomas and read everything he wrote and everything about him.

So much later, when I was in Wales for a few days, I wanted to find the places of Dylan Thomas.  Laugharne was within easy driving distance of where we were staying.  So off we went in our rental Mini to spend the day in the footsteps of the great Welsh poet.  I was so excited I had tears in my eyes as we drove into town.  We walked the streets, found the houses he and Caitlin had lived in.

Found our way to sign at Browns Hotel, Laugharne, WalesBrown’s Hotel where he spent a lot of time.  We went in, spent a lot of time.  Pictures of him and Caitlin on the walls, lots of ambience.  Locals looking askance at the tourists looking at everything as if they were in a place of worship.  For me, I was.

Another wander through town, then a look at my watch and at my pamphlet.  “We gotta go, the Boat House is going to close soon.”  The Boat House, on the water at the bottom of a cliff, is where he and Caitlin last lived in Laugharne.  Nearby, atop the cliff, is the “writing shed” where Thomas worked.  Both are a museum about him.  They are a fair walk along the cliff from downtown, where we were.

Walking to the poetry

We started walking through town, leisurely looking around as we went.  I was keeping an eye on my watch and realized time was running out, and I sped up. I The Boat House, Laugharne Waleskept looking back, saying “hurry, hurry”.  My partner strolled along, with a “don’t worry, lots of time”.  I was getting panicky and the Boat House was farther away than I thought.  I should have just run ahead.  I did finally, but I got there ten minutes too late.  The Boat House had closed for the day.  I cried.  I was angry at myself for having not Exterior of Dylan's Writing Shedjust gone on ahead in the first place.  At him for dawdling, for not realizing how important this was to me.  The town’s atmosphere was indeed lovely, but it would still be there after the Boat House closed.

So I looked in the windows trying to see as much as I could.   You can see almost everything inside the writing shed, with his table set up as if he’d just walked away for a minute.  But it wasn’t the same.  I wanted to be inside the rooms in which Dylan Thomas had spent his time.  I wanted to touch the walls, breathe the air poetry - Interior of "Writing Shed"inside his place.  I wanted to absorb the space of a poet I’d had a crush on for two decades.

My partner felt bad for causing me to miss this.  I guess the sight of me with my hands cupped around my face pressed against the window glass while I sniveled must have been pretty pitiful.

The cat in the graveyard

We walked back to town, went to the church graveyard where Dylan is buried.  A white cat walked up to us and lay across a nearby gravestone, stretched and rolled, batted at blades of Dylan Thomas' gravegrass.  She wanted somebody to play with her and scratch her belly, so I did.  There were no flowers on Dylan’s grave, but there were some plastic flowers on another gravestone.  I felt bad about what I was about to do, but did it anyway.  I took one flower from the bouquet and stuck it in the earth in front of the white cross marking his grave.

We patted the cat good-bye and drove around Laugharne for a farewell look, then left.  That visit has stuck in my mind, for what I didn’t see and what I did see.  It was devastating to not be able to go in the Boat House, but the cat at the graveyard felt right.  It was like she was greeter of Dylan Thomas fans and keeper of the grave.