Wednesday, August 15, 2012

On the Road with Warriors

On the road
Laura Jeanne Costales Morefield
as Cornelia Otis Skinner in
Our Hearts Were Young and Gay
Madison High School, 1978

My 48-year-old daughter was diagnosed with stage-four colon cancer in 2008. She’d just beaten her stepbrothers in a round of golf and driven home to Orange County, when the pain she'd attributed to a pulled muscle became so acute that she went to Mission Viejo Hospital during the night. She was so robust and healthy that for two days they tested her for everything else (just like "House") before performing the liver biopsy that enabled them to make their diagnosis. Though her colon cancer had metastasized and filled her liver with too many tumors to be counted. Laura named the three largest Fred, Ed and Earl, went home, and studied colon cancer and the various chemicals offered by her oncologist before deciding on her course of treatment.

The Warrior by Charlene Baldridge
Laura continued her good eating habits, continued playing golf during non-chemo weeks, went to yoga, and learned finally to accept there would be some "couch days." She wrote a lot of poems, mentored others with colon cancer and began a book about her experience titled Golf on Monday, Chemo Tuesday. An inveterate blogger, Laura had two: and another about colon cancer, referenced on the first. She far outlived her dire prognosis and died following a precipitous decline, four months prior to her 51st birthday. 

The Warriors’ Duet is exactly that. I took some of Laura’s glorious post-diagnosis poems and surrounded them with commentary about my experience as fellow writer and traveler and the mother of an extreme warrior. I continued to search for my funny, sarcastic, joyful and beloved girl after her death, and I discovered in the writing, to my surprise, that I had been a warrior too.

When Laura first received her diagnosis, I wanted to give up my life and move into the Morefields' downstairs bedroom. "That's not gonna happen!" said Laura the wise. Her husband, Dan Morefield, would tend to most of her needs. Their best friend, Erik Kieser, organized teams of helpers for chemo weeks and post-surgery weeks. Dan thought Laura might eventually have to move downstairs and outfitted the room with a television. She never did move downstairs, and bounded up the stairs just after her several surgeries and hospital stays and in fact just two nights prior to her death, though she relied on Dan's arm.

Christmas 2008
Laura Morefield and Team Laura member

And so, I became a team member and fulfilled my duties in rotation, taking Laura to chemo treatments and picking her up afterwards. In addition I was privileged to visit whenever I wanted, with advance notice of course.

Following her death, Laura was on the edges of my dreams for months, just out of sight. The night I finished collecting and editing her post-diagnosis poems -- her only request of me, made just weeks before she died -- Laura appeared in her Groucho guise, replete with twirling cigar, and made it abundantly clear there was more for me to do. "What's next, Miss Mommy?" she asked out of the corner of her mouth. Since we’d each spent a little time on stage, the more and the next of my assignments become a dramatic dialogue for two women. 

What do you do with something like this? I’d never written anything for the theatre, only about the theatre. I began by showing The Warriors’ Duet to friends, among the first theatre directors Claudio Raygoza and Glenn Paris, who said “We’ve got to give this a reading.”

Warrior Women
Karson St.John, Mom, and Linda Libby
Photo courtesy of ion theatre company
I had two women in mind from the start. Glenn and Claudio persuaded those women, Karson St.John and Linda Libby, to read The Warriors’ Duet in May 2012 at ion theatre company. Expecting to weep throughout, I asked to be hidden in a deep, dark corner of the theatre, but I but I did not weep, merely gloried in the words spoken aloud. 

Apparently, The Warriors' Duet will enjoy additional life in the spring. The theatre, producer/director, actors, time and place are yet to be announced. I am very excited over the prospect.

Laura and I traveled the world together for more than a decade. Now we’re together again, on the road with Warriors. I want everyone to know her wit, her words, her ability to celebrate life, and her courage. Seldom has there been such a warrior.

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