I called my mom again.
“I’m not making a revenge movie. I want to make a movie about my feelings.”
“Oh,” she said. “Hmm.”
Feelings have never been my mom’s thing. She’d rather clean the bathroom than talk about feelings. When my dad died and the coroner came, I could see two rooms from where I stood; One was the bedroom, where my dad lay dead, the other was the family room, where my mom tidied. My nephew Jacob pulled out his phone and read the mourner’s Kaddish while we watched the coroner put a toe tag on my dad and wheel him out on a cart. As they did that, my mom straightened pictures on the wall and moved a coffee table a few feet to the right.
I stood by the front door and waited for the elevator to come to take my dad away. When he was gone, my mom asked if we could help her clean up the bedroom. We said yes, of course. But, I said, first we need to have a drink and a chat about our feelings. It’s what my dad would have done.
When I was a kid, it was my dad who’d sit up with me in the middle of the night to talk. According to my dad, who was a psychotherapist, feelings were complicated and sometimes they were elliptical, meaning they didn’t always make sense.
Five months after my dad died, I started shooting the movie. I decided I’d use old footage that I had of him interwoven with new footage of me grieving in myriad ways. I was grieving at a dinner party, in the woods, in a loft, in a pickup truck, in bed. My mom was in the movie, too. I felt good when I was shooting. Productive! Like my grief was useful.
At one point I lay splat on the kitchen floor moaning, while I instructed my mom to cut mushrooms. From the cold kitchen floor, I directed my mom to do less.
“Do less?” she asked. “If I do any less, I’ll be dead.”
“Let me see what that looks like,” I said.
So she did. She hung over the kitchen counter like a wilting plant, barely alert, chopping mushrooms. I turned to look up at her. “Perfect,” I said.