1. Record two people talking
2. Rewrite in the style of a famous playwright

The real-life dialogue was between my mother and Cousin Steve. They discussed the usual old-folks-at-a-wedding topics: ill health, aging and death.

 

The Real-Life Dialogue

DEE

So, does your sister visit your mother every day?

STEVE

No, my, you know, Joan works and she has her obligations.  She does get there much more than I do, and she tries to, sooth her, what have you, spend a little bit more time with her.

DEE

Is Joan upset that she's there in the home, is she relieved that she's getting good care?

STEVE

Well, uh, they're not mutually exclusive.  On the one hand you're, y'know, neither of us are anxious to see her, that she's in, but we're pleased that she doesn't have to fend for herself and, uh, being in a nursing home finally relieves her of the mechanics of day to day activity.

DEE

You do know, by the way, that Mel's got some of her money, that...

STEVE

Oh yeah, yeah.

DEE

Yes, you knew that

STEVE

(joking)

Yeah, figure about six million dollars.

Dee laughs

STEVE (CONT’D)

Anything less, he's got to answer for it (laughs).  Yeah, as a matter of fact, we've been trying to get some information about estate planning and, uh, we really haven't quite put that together, that's a really special area and it varies from state to state.

DEE

But you have power of attorney, don't you?

STEVE

Yeah, well, Joan has power of attorney, but, uh, you know, I guess, years ago, 20 years ago, if you were in a situation like this, you really, uh, it didn't sit right, to let it slip into a Medicaid situation, and now, uh, the times have changed and we have, uh, again, you don't know quite what's right, whether to just let things slide into the Medicaid situation, let the money squander away, and you know, it's amazing how fast it goes, no matter how much you have, um, you can't, you can't get ready for something like that.  Well, you work.

DEE

What is her actual physical condition now?  I mean, is her heart alright?

STEVE

Her heart's alright, she has diabetes and has a little difficulty walking, she walks with a walker and she can walk about a hundred feet and she's tired all the time, um and tends to, to drift off into, uh, into sleep.  She can feed herself...

DEE

Yeah...

STEVE

When you come in, you know, she knows who you are, uh, and she'll,  she knows who I am.

DEE

Yes, yes.

STEVE

Uhm, her vision's not too good. But you know, her heart's working fine, that, that, that's not the issue. I mean, pick a system, I mean, every...

DEE

Yeah, heah. Does she, uh, can she watch television? Does she, can she get pleasure out of that?

STEVE

No, no, not every day, no, it doesn't do anything for her.

DEE

Yeah.

STEVE

You see a lot of older folks that just kind of lose it.

DEE

Very common.

STEVE

There's a funny line between being able to see and being able to, you know, see it, assimilate it, you know, cogitate on it, you know, do something about it, discuss it, that kind of thing.

DEE

But what does it make you think about how you want to prepare for this, I mean, that, that's... Is there any wisdom you've got out of this?

STEVE

No, I fear not, I mean, have you found that there's any way that you can change your lifestyle, or, uh, you know, it's like seeing somebody die, when they do, you promise yourself that you're gonna live a little bit more for the moment.

DEE

Yes, yes.

STEVE

...And, uh, a couple days later on, even though these are very important questions, you know, you get mired in the immediacy of less important questions.

DEE

Yes.

STEVE

You know, not every day can you think about whether God exists and whether there's free will.

DEE

It's not even, yeah, it's not even that, it's just, it's just, how can you arrange, you know, so that you can do it more, gracefully?  I don't know, I mean, is, is, is it only your physical health, or how can you arrange so that you remain engaged with life, however frail you are, I don't know if you can't, when you lose your physical powers, there are some people who, there are some people who it really doesn't matter if they're wheel-chair bound, and they're you know, the life of the mind goes on and they remain vigorous and.

STEVE

A lot of it has to do with force of personality and a lot of it has to do with wealth and how much, how well you can arrange your affairs to have, others give you, you know, others be a support group for you, uh, you need, you need, you need the magic of the personality. I think part of it is, uh, to have maintained friends both old and younger than you.

DEE

Yeah...

STEVE

So often you hear that as the years go by old friends die off.

DEE

Yeah...

STEVE

And you're left alone.

DEE

Yeah...

STEVE

And felt like you should have had younger friends.

DEE

Mmm-hmm.

STEVE

It's like seeing somebody die.

DEE

Yes.

STEVE

You lose your physical powers.

DEE

Yes.

 

They get to the food. Conversation ends.

END

 

.

Rewritten by David Mamet

DEE

So, does your sister...?

STEVE

My sister.

DEE

Your sister goin'?

STEVE

Every day?

DEE

Does she?

STEVE

My sister! No, not my sister. Not her.

DEE

She doesn't go.

STEVE

The bitch. "Obligations" she says.

DEE

So.

STEVE

"Obligations". What the fuck.

DEE

Bitch.

STEVE

Says she gets there more than me.

DEE

She upset?

STEVE

Spends more time with her than me.

DEE

She upset that she's there?

STEVE

Upset?

DEE

Is she relieved?

STEVE

Joan?

DEE

'Cause she's getting care?

STEVE

Relieved?

DEE

Y'know, a relief.

STEVE

Relief? Upset?

DEE

Yeah.

STEVE

You can have two fucking feelings, y'know.

DEE

What?

STEVE

Why you gotta ask if it's one or the other? 

DEE

OK. You can, yeah. So?

STEVE

I mean, we're not thrilled she's there. We're not fucking dancing on the fucking family grave plot. 

DEE

Dancing?

STEVE

Fucking family plot cost a god damned fortune. So they can lay together arguing 'till the end of the fucking world.  Fucking nuts.

DEE

Did I say...?

STEVE

We're not fucking animals, y'know. Jesus Christ, she's our fucking mother. Laying there like some vegetable...

DEE

She is?

STEVE

Jesus. Least she don't piss herself now. Least they clean her up now. Fucking nurses. Cunts. 

DEE

You seen that?

- Pause - 

STEVE

What about that money?

DEE

What?

STEVE

Don't shit me. Mel. He's got some of her money.

DEE

Oh. That.

STEVE

That son of a bitch.

DEE

You knew that?

STEVE

Yeah.

- DEE laughs - 

STEVE

I'm telling you straight. You tell him I want some answers.

DEE

Power of attorney. You got that anyway, right?

STEVE

Shit. That fucking bitch.

DEE

What?

STEVE

Joan. Joan has it.

DEE

Joan?

STEVE

Yeah.

DEE

Shit.

STEVE

Yeah. Power of fucking attorney.

DEE

Jesus.

STEVE

Shit. Won't be anything left anyway.

DEE

Nothing?

STEVE

Fucking Medicaid. Fucking insurance. Fucking nursing home, doctors, nurses, fucking piss cleaners.

DEE

Shit.

STEVE

No shit. Pick your bones. Till they're dry. Till they're bleeding.

DEE

Dry as a bone.

STEVE

Fucking Medicaid.

DEE

Take it all,

STEVE

No shit. And for what?

DEE

She OK?

STEVE

What?

DEE

Your mom? She walking? Heart? Anything?

STEVE

Oh. Yeah. She's great. Fucking great. Fucking running the marathon.

DEE

She OK?

STEVE

I come in, she knows who I am – that's a fucking good day.

DEE

She watch TV?

STEVE

TV?  Yeah, TV. She's drooling. Man. She's fucking drooling. Know what that's like?  Watch your mother piss herself and drooling.

DEE

Shit.

STEVE

She's fucking lost it.

DEE

Shit.

STEVE

She smells.

DEE

Bad?

STEVE

You say, no way that's gonna happen

DEE

No way...

STEVE

But what the fuck can you do?

DEE

Get old and piss yourself.

STEVE

Not one fucking thing you can do.

DEE

Shit sucks.

STEVE

Money. Not one fucking thing 'cept money.

DEE

Get some cash.

STEVE

Yeah. Get a big stash and you can be drooling and fucking pay people to be your friends. Pay some fucking nurses with huge knockers to clean up your piss. Maybe, you got enough money, they'll take their fucking shirts off.

 

They get to the food. Conversation ends.

END

Rewritten by Shakespeare

DEE

Say'st thou sister that she goes upon each day?

STEVE

My fair sister, she serves not one master,

For as mother, daughter, worker and wife,

She's not to decide as one daughter's due.

Justice, in these gloomy days, be not one,

But like a judge with many dockets,

And then for each new court a different robe,

And each demands more payment of short time.

Till, anon, there goes just hours.  Poor hours,

Less well spent than on her Ma's last bench.

Now, through time's demands, injustice justice does.

For, 'tis just we children grow so well.  Yet,

When in bed's good sport the mother sweated,

Babe's to mother's bed came tumbling swift.

Now, sweated-up with fevered, aging bones,

These bawlers barely mother's bed abide.

DEE

Is Joan's heart rent with this sad pass?

STEVE

The heart's a place four-chambered well to work,

Draws red blood with two and two to it expel.

Would this dual organ break to be but one,

Our breath would cease and then we'd be but none.

So our we our feelings beating dual,

Rare a contracting sadness pumps alone,

Without relief squeezed out the other wall.

DEE

And, not to blush, but what of Mel?

Doest thou knowest of his value?

STEVE

Yes, for unto him shadowy forests,

With plenteous rivers and wide-skirted meads,

She had made to him, to protect and make grow.

But now, she crawlest towards death undone,

And children want, as children do, to re-do,

That which foolish age decided long ago.

We would divide her kingdom, Joan and I.

But tis a challenge oft not unrivaled.

Joan, she claims, doth, visiting more, 

Loves her more, And to her power is given Attorney.

DEE

Much power then to her.

STEVE

Unhappy scoundrel that I am, I cannot heave,

My full purse unto the doctors.  I love my Mother

According to my bond, no more nor less.

And thus, should it slip into the strange plight,

The mysteries of Hecate and the night, 

The operation of the orbs

From whom we do exist and cease to be?

That is, must we turn now, to Medicaid?  

How fast we turn from child to stranger.

And how rapid sucks the revenue,

This beast we call Healthcare will have it's due.

DEE

And yet, your mother, how stands she now?

STEVE

She stands not, she walks not, she barely crawls.

A poor, infirm weak and sorry old woman

Cataracts, coughs boils to wrack her nights,

And the days to drift and dream she is yet young.

DEE

Oh, tis indeed a pity.

STEVE

When I enter she still calls unto me,

And all kinds of vile names does she speak.

"I gave you all" she calls, and cries for home.

On her knees she weeps that I am wicked,

That I have cast her out into the storm.

Calls me names and knows how to name my crime,

Calls me, weeping, a plague-sore carbuncle.

DEE

Is there no respite in her days, no pleasure?

STEVE

Shall she read, nay, nor sing, nor dance, nor feast.

Only full of grief as age, wretched in both.

What is there when your eyes dim and see mist?

She sees and yet she does not really see.

Is not seeing knowing?  Yet there's more to it.

She sees and yet she stumbles when she sees,

Can no longer digest food for her eyes.

I would but she could see and could I,

Then see the real mother who raised me.

But as she can no longer see, I fear,

I will neither see my true mother dear.

DEE

Is there then, no wisdom in all this?

STEVE

Did not he who made us give us Reason?

Is it just to fust in us all unus'd?

And yet when herin I look for some Wisdom,

I fear that I see nought but some large swamp.

Exposing what is mortal and unsure,

How do we dare to act, to change, to leap?

We see death's specter and promise more,

More shall we crowd life, more with rhapsody,

Shall we play, kiss, romp.  Yes, pluck these from life!

Bah!  For time plays tricks, and our mind returns,

Finding it's rutted pathways and saying:

Tis easier to dwell in the old roads.

Are we not tiresome and lazy beasts?

Unkind to Change and unfriendly to New. 

Most more like cows than like brave shadows of God.

DEE

Yet there are those with choice and better minds,

Who laugh at wrinkled cheeks and shaking hands.

They keep power in their words, their eyes sharp,

And age, which us surprises, cuts and torments,

Worse even than betrayal of true love,

To them is gentle and a weight less sad.

Do not forget how rare is such a man.

Few have such magic in their possession,

That they may think and be remade content.

Most men choose wealth over books, and gorgeous furs,

They would have.  Thinking warm bones more wanted

Then warm words and precious trust with fair friends. 

But they are foolish and poor who'd have those.

Neither dukedoms nor diamonds nor power,

Match those rich in friendships and free with love.

 

They get to the food. Conversation ends.

END