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The Haunted Heaven: Chapter Seventeen: A Stepmother

By Michael Moriarty

web posted September 26, 2011

Matilda Pavane!

My stepmother.

Yes, by the end of my second year at The Prep School, my father had married her and bought a home for all three of us. Plus two dogs I always named after my molester -- regardless of its breed, spaniel or boxer ... or its sex for that matter.

Did my father and stepmother catch on to "The Game"? They must have. The man was eventually fired by the next school he taught at for ... well, you can guess.

My father, ever the know-it-all, advised him to go live in some part of the world where child-molesting was acceptable.

Did my father know his own son was one of the teacher's "pets"? He had to. However, by then it was clear that I was not the son he had dreamed of. I was obviously not butch enough.

I have obviously had a "father problem" all of my life ... and a "mother problem" too ... until I found a psychoanalyst, a female from the Karen Horney Institute.

She was brilliant. I trust she still is. Although speaking of her is "getting ahead of myself", this true physician led me gently but firmly to a realization of just how profound the umbilical tie to one's mother is.


Once this analyst had led me there, I wept for two straight weeks.

As my mother's Judas? Hard to know.

God, however, solved the problem by sending me, miraculously late in life, my adoptive mother, Maria Luisa Calla. A devout Catholic whose strength has sprung directly out of her religious faith. Mamma, as I call her, brought me to the perfection of my Haunted Heaven.

Am I here to convert my readers to Rome? I could do a lot worse. I just turned on the playback for my Second Concerto for Orchestra, third movement. The theme from King Lear is announced briefly but quite early. Inspired by Albert Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus, life as a long-trek up a mountain with a rock that just will not behave!

This movement introduces a number of themes developed in later movements. However, for now at any rate, the theme is now in my new, symphonic enterprise: a tone poem entitled guess what?

The Haunted Heaven.

It also might explain the "howls of execration" I've heard from within myself ever since my afternoon with The Friend of the Court. Those sounds, no doubt, will appear later in the tone poem.

Camus, like Simone Weil, of whom you will hear more much later, carried France to me in ways that the likes of the Fashionable Left of Paris would find ... uh ... "execrable".

I'm learning late in my pilgrimage that much of life just begs not to be explained.

Instincts, which are always pure, almost exceed the speed of light. They certainly defy reason.

Ortega y Gasset: "The opposite of Truth is not Untruth but Reason."

One can build a reasonable case for why "population control" is imperative and abortion as a population control device is a necessity.

To my mind that is most certainly the opposite of Truth.

To Communist China it is Reason Itself.

The "Triumph of Reason" in all Marxist dialectics has ultimately come out of the barrel of a gun.

Apparently the life and post-mortem power of Jesus Christ somehow escaped Mao Zedong and the Progressive detritus now scattered throughout the D.C. Beltway.

But what has all this philosophizing to do with my stepmother?! Very little actually. She was such a common sense woman that any extensive exhortations made her eyes slit. Despite her blond hair and resemblance to a gorgeous figure skater of the time ... no, not Sonja Henie ... later ... during the 1950's ... oh, well ... she was no-nonsense, North Italian, second generation Italian/American.

Her parents came from Udina. Her father was a chef in the major hotels of Detroit. My father liked to eat ... a lot ... so ... well ... I'll let my readers chew on that.

Mitzie, as we all called her, never tried to replace my mother ... for many reasons, thank God. It didn't take long for me to fall in love with her as deeply or, perhaps, even more deeply than my father had.

She only had one flaw that I can think of. She never ate enough. Grew skinny as a rail cooking for my father who ... well ... let's just call him Henry VIII or a humorless Jackie Gleason, alright?

Mitzie felt full after preparing dinner for my father and ... well ... between that and her smoking and the ever-present Jack Daniels ... yes, she became a drunk like my mother had but an eternally functioning alcoholic, like my father.

I could have died a "functioning alcoholic" but, for some divine reason, I found the strength to quit completely. She died way too early in her life. In her sixties. My dad died in his eighties and she followed him shortly thereafter. Hmmm ... Mitzie was the only parent I could mourn over without effort.

My dad and she married during my second year at The Prep School and then they bought a house near the Jesuit High School I was to attend.

Despite the mess my father's drinking and dictatorial ways left behind him, he did give me the most important ingredient in my life: a Catholic education. The Jesuits, actually. They are the Marines of the Catholic Church. They go where few other holy orders dare to venture.

Because of a Jesuit, if you can believe this, I spent most of my life in the theater ... or some form of it. Father Samuel Listermann, S.J. of the University of Detroit High School. When I first saw him, I thought, "He looks like Friar Tuck out of Robin Hood!"

Friar Tuck with a Jesuit education and full degree in the still breathtaking commitment demanded of a Catholic priest. If Conscience, with a capital C, drove me to leave the United States, that conscience was seeded in me by the Jesuits.

Why did Bill Clinton end up without any conscience one might reasonably expect or detect for that matter? He studied with the Jesuits at Georgetown!

In college.

By eighteen years of age, it is too late for anyone, including the Jesuits of Georgetown, to fundamentally transform you or William Clinton in any substantive way.

Now, as I have begun my 71st year, I muse over the instant excitement engendered in me by a popular singer such as Katherine McPhee, whose range in styles appear to be as limitless as the protean richness of her voice!

What a thrilling angel. The smiles on Andrea Bocelli's face as she sings tell us everything.

Then again there is the long, arduous and tragically brief life of a composer such as Gustav Mahler.

This is a particularly American inner crisis. Leonard Bernstein faced it with the popular appeal of his Broadway creations, West Side Story and Candide, his film score for On The Waterfront, and, at the same time, the white towers of classical music and, in particular, the magnetic power of Gustav Mahler to almost shape Bernstein's inner life.

So many, seemingly conflicting forces have shaped me that it is no wonder I've only come to some kind of clarity about myself in my eighth decade.

However, as my evolving Tone Poem introduces as a dominant theme, we plod up the mountain to soon realize that the obstacles, all of them, are opportunities. Enjoy them!

Do not condemn them. Open yourself to them while, at the same time, moving on. You can do both.

That would seem impossible to the ambitious young but ... ah, thanks to the Almighty, many of us can eventually see and at last actually feel the simple magic of such contradictory forces.

Marx envisioned what I'm talking about as the eternal dialectic. He, however, excluded the divine intelligence which most of us call God. Marx's conclusions, therefore, in the face of these "obstacles" I am speaking of, increasingly necessitated the use of force to resolve ... or rather ... to simply eliminate the obstacle.

That is not "enjoying the obstacle".

It certainly isn't thanking God for all of life.

Once such prayerful gratitude has begun in your life, you will be amazed how hell can mysteriously be transformed into heaven. ESR

Michael Moriarty is a Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor who starred in the landmark television series Law and 4Order from 1990 to 1994. His recent film and TV credits include The Yellow Wallpaper, 12 Hours to Live, Santa Baby and Deadly Skies. Contact Michael at rainbowfamily2008@yahoo.com.


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