Notta Louden Screams


About that

Notta Louden Screams

I haven’t seen Notta in a few weeks. Not surprising because, like me and so many others of our generation, she deals with the intermittent crises of parents in their 90s and children in their 30s and 20s on a regular basis. We are the current “Sandwich Generation,” after all. It can get overwhelming and time-consuming. So, when she phoned to tell me when she would be back in class, I understood the delay. She came early today to help in class; we took the time to “catch up.”

“What did you want to be when you were a child?” she asked quite suddenly. I admitted I hadn’t a clue and continued clueless until I was in my 40s. “I wanted to be an actress,” Notta said. “Make movies and TV shows and be rich and famous. Then I got on a high school musical stage. Found out I should find something else to do; I wasn’t any good at acting.” She sighed. “Well, I didn’t think I was.

“What I have been thinking lately, though, is that’s all I do anymore: act. Play a role. For my parents, I’m still the child. And it seems the older they get, the younger they think I am. I talked to my mom about some science the other day, maybe it was the eclipse, and she said, ‘I didn’t know you knew about that? When did you learn that?’ So I have to act as if they are right because, well, they’re my parents and I love them. They have a right to peace of mind, respect and dignity, even when, in my head, I’m screaming.

“But remember, in their heads, they’re probably screaming, too. Things are falling apart inside and outside for them and they have to act like it’s fine, this is Life, we have to accept it.” Notta shook her head. “Me, I’d be hollering out loud. I do already. Like that poet says, I want to ‘race against the dying of the light.’”

“I think it’s ‘rage,’ not race,” I said.

She waved me off. “Same thing. Don’t go quietly. I wish my parents wouldn’t go quietly. I’d like them to howl along with me.

“My kids probably will feel the same about me when it’s coming my turn to jump off. I hope they will, but for them, it’s another role I have to play. A whole cast of roles, if you want to know. There’s the mama who cooks your favorite foods, cleans up your messes and smiles no matter what. There’s the wise teacher who teaches only when asked. There’s the resource when anything is needed. Service with a smile, and, again, in my head, I’m screaming.

“Though, most times, I think I’m screaming at the World for them, not at them. So much is nothing like the world I wanted to give them. There’s too much anger and fear and all those things build is more anger and fear playing the part of hate and stupidity. Hate is stupidity, if you ask me. If you get to understand something or take the time to learn about it, you don’t hate so much. It’s a simple fact of life. You have to learn, or you rot from the neck up. I wish more people would understand that learning is life, but maybe they’re lazy. And then they think there’s nothing wrong with being so lazy. So I scream at the laziness.

“And what does that leave for my husband?” she continued. “All that playacting, 24/7?” I shrugged to get her to follow her train of thought. “Well, it leaves another part to play, but that’s one that doesn’t feel so…so…”

“Out of character?” I suggested.

She pointed a finger at me. “That’s it. That’s right. And that’s why strong marriages last, when they do. The partners get to play themselves 80-85% of the time. They have to understand that the other 15-20% you’re going to have to play the supportive spouse, the patient spouse, the reliable helper. The “for better or worse” part of the bargain. And that’s hard, especially when you really want to call him a dumb ass and smack him upside the head. “ She grinned. “Can’t imagine how many times he’s wanted to do the same for me, but that’s how it goes. You smile, you wait, and you think of another way do your screaming. Because cursing each other and hitting each other gets you nowhere but bruised.”

She looked up, turned her head towards the classroom, hearing students coming in with their giggling and profanity-laced banter. She smiled at me. “And there’s a whole new part to play. Ready to earn our next Oscar without screaming?”

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