Missing My Dad

Today, during lunch break, I took my dog, Tulea, for a walk and it really hit me how much I miss my dad. When he returned from his stint in the Navy after WWII he went straight to Broadway to star in “Mr. Roberts.” He played that role every day for four years, never missing a performance! It was not customary in those days—the 40s and 50s—for movie stars to go back and forth from Hollywood to Broadway. But theatre was Dad’s great love. My brother and I grew up knowing and respecting this about him. He loved the immediacy of playing before a live audience. The instant feedback. He was meticulous, always doing exactly the same things, the same moves, the same inflections, every night. I have heard this from so many of his fellow actors.

Now that I am doing theater again after a huge absence, I can’t help but wish he was still here with me–to see. Not that he would give me advice. That wasn’t his style. But I wish he knew that I’ve come back to his place of love.

There have been days during these weeks of rehearsals when I seem incapable of doing the same thing over and over…even twice, never mind for 4 years! I wonder how he was able to do it. I want to please him…still. Do we ever get over this need to please the parent we were closest to?

* * * * * * * *

Moises Kaufman, the writer and director, has us doing run throughs more frequently now and it helps so much to experience the sweep of the play. We begin tech rehearsals in the actual theatre—the Eugene O’Neill–next week (gulp!) so we are starting to fine tune and lock in the blocking.

I love watching the other actors in their scenes. So funny, so touching, so outrageous! I like how we are melding together as a unit, all watching out for each other. Colin (Hanks) has had a cold for several days and last night he had to fly to Las Vegas to perform a scene he did with the actors in the TV series “Mad Men.” We’re all worried about him and he left with all of us bombarding him with special remedies for stopping colds.

I couldn’t resist taking this picture of Don Amendolia who plays Diabelli, the music publisher whose small waltz is the inspiration for Beethoven’s great opus, 33 Variations. That’s him behind the paper, sleeping with Tulea during a break. (I sent this attachment a few hours ago JJ and James). Susan Kellerman, who plays the librarian in charge of the Beethoven archive, is insisting that I grant them all visiting rights with Tulea when the play is over. “Over”! What a concept.

Tomorrow I have an early costume fitting so I’m off to bed.

See you next time.

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  1. Hey Jane, That’s so interesting…my father has been gone a long time and I found myself thinking about him the other day, too. So funny how they come back around. Love your blog!

  2. I don’t think we ever get over wanting to please our parents – or our maybe even a special grandparent. Now that they’re gone, they are like precious stones in my pocket that I’m not alway conscious are there – then I’ll remember and rub the stone, the memories are bitter, sweet – sometimes so funny it makes me laugh out loud. It maintains my connection to them till we meet again. It is so great that you’re sharing this experience! Can’t wait to see 33 Variations – what an amazing creative team!

  3. Dear Jane:
    I hope you don’t mind my addressing you by your first name; having watched your films from my early youth (sorry!) and lived around the corner from you in Santa Monica many years ago, I feel almost as if I know you a little (much of which is due to the honesty of your performances as well). I happened upon your blog only today–as I’m sure many others will do, thanks to the New York Times–and I have to confess that as a former actor and current playwright and eternal devotee of the theater, I found what you wrote to be incredibly moving, to say nothing of brave. I’ve always believed that stepping on a stage in front of hundreds of people in a dark theater is in some ways the ultimate act of revelation. I will be attending a performance of “33 Variations” shortly after it opens, and although (as you yourself noted) times are very tough economically, I decided to treat myself to an experience I feel certain will be incredibly exciting. (I also was in attendance at the 30th anniversary screening of “Coming Home” last year, and your amazingly warm, funny and enjoyable commentary following the screening was really a joyous occasion for everyone in the audience.) I wish you every best wish on your return to Broadway. In the end, it never is what the critics say that matters but rather what the audience feels. Please know that “the love you take/ Is equal to the love you make.” Break a leg!

  4. It’s so funny how the feeling of missing a parent can strike at the most random moments. No matter how much time has passed, it still pops up and surprises you, you know? I continue to wonder what my mother would think of and say about my life now.

    As for your father, it’s funny because I recently edited an article about the Omaha theater scene and learned so much about his (and your family’s) roots in the Omaha Community Playhouse, and theater in general there. It’s really cool because for all those involved there, his legacy is still very much alive and strong.

  5. I am fortunate to still have my father. He gives too much advice, and he has no tact, and I adore him! I’m just like him (??). And proud of it. I loved Hank so much. You and he did not fit, but then, I only knew/know the actors. Not the real people. You are so very brave. Peace be with you!

  6. Hi Jane, We met many years ago, and saw each other numerous times, through Richard and Teddy Rosenthal at their house in Bel-Air.

    Don’t expect you to remember.

    But I was fortunate to meet your Dad around the same time. I spent a bit of time at his house and still cherish the jars of honey he gave me. Honey’s gone, but the labels are still on the jars. More important he and Shirlee were getting rid of some things and gave me a toy chest he’d made. It’s been put to good use for many years.

    Your missing your Dad made me think of the times I spent with him and how honored I was to know him.

    There’s more, but I think this is enough for now.

    Break a leg come opening night!

  7. Kevin,
    I’ve never heard it put so beautifully. My mother was a precious stone. She’s been gone 17 years (hard to believe) and I keep her alive by mentioning her at least once a day. It makes me happy and I’m sure it would her too.

    Jane, your dad was so great at his craft and you are too. It’s funny how we never feel our parents have finished teaching us everything we are suppose to know. They leave before their lessons are done!

  8. My father died when I was 17 . My mother died last year . I have a happy family with 3 children. i miss them both no matter how content I am . It is the tragedy of losing loved ones that frame your life .they never go away .


  9. I feel so smart that I saw your dad in Chicago perform with Eva Marie Saint in the piece on the Supreme Court.
    I’ll always remember it ( and the good shape she was in!)
    You’re pretty memorable yourself.

  10. Hi Jane,
    I lost my father a year ago, ten months after my mother died, and I am struck by how frequently a wave of sadness at the loss or joy in a memory arises from the deep.
    Initially I was so bereft and my doctor, who is a Hindu woman, told me that she believed that our loved ones cannot go on to their new lives until we let them go. I think of that with some comfort when I find myself aching.
    My father, like yours, chose a career he loved. He was a bookseller and relished his work. I aspire to be like him in some ways and to be very different in others but my love for him seems to manifest itself at various times from mundane moments of daily living to time dedicated to deeper thought, creative processes and emotional periods.
    I don’t think we ever truly and completely shed the need for the approval of these so very powerful father figures but I have attempted to reframe this dilemma by looking at it as part of my growth rather than a neurotic need (with not total success, I must admit).
    I’m delighted to hear you are returning to the stage and I wish you well with the experience. I hope to see your performance.
    This is the first time I have read your blog and I was impressed with your candor and lingual ease.
    Thank you for another reminder of my wonderful father.
    Connie Huntington

  11. I just saw the movie recently, it really is a great film.

    It spoke to me both as a veteran myself and as the granddaughter of a WWII navy man.


  12. I’ve been a fan since the first breath-taking moment I saw you in KLUTE–thanks for the inspiration and bravery you’ve shown us both on and off-screen. I lost my dear papa in October ’08–he was tough and demanding, also loving and nurturing–he will always be a part of my life, in everything I do and say. I share your sentiments about missing a father–somehow they are never quite away from us.
    I look forward to seeing you on-stage on April 30th. Last time I saw you live was as a member of the studio audience during a taping of the Dick Cavett show,with Jack Lemmon, plugging The China Syndrome.

  13. My dad has only been gonejust under five years and yeah its hard sometime to know they are not going to be ther to get advice from or just a smile. My mom still has his voice on her cell. So yeah I guess you never really get over the loss and always wonder if there ere things you could hve done differently. You look fabulous by the way.

  14. Dear Jane:

    In reference to your comment:
    “I want to please him…still. Do we ever get over this need to please the parent we were closest to?”

    Actually there are theories that say our need to please a parent stems from not being nurtured, accepted, and reassured by that parent. (the supportive, kind, loving parent we take for granted, the witholding one, we still have that inner child needing their approval).

    The coping skill for that is to nurture yourself, be your own approving parent.

    And, please be aware, there are hundreds, even thousands of us out here who admire you, support all your efforts past and present, and think of you as a strong, treasured individual.

  15. I think fathers and daughters are very special. I talk to my Dad every day, it’s like he’s always there. Hits me out of the blue. But I’m grateful he was my father. You look so much like your father and you are serious like him, I think. Best of luck.

  16. Life is surprising sometimes. I lost my dear father to cancer in December 2008. He had just past his 80th birthday, and it all happened really quickly. It has been 6 months now and I still do not quite know how to live in a world where he isn’t laughing that fabulous laugh that used to light up any room he was in.

    I actually typed “missing my dad” into google today. It seems a silly way to look for solace, but there you have it.

    The first thing that came up was this blog. And reading it did help.

    Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts, Ms Fonda and all the folks who commented on this entry.

    I miss him everyday. It still hurts. Everyday.

  17. Hi Jane, I just wanted to remind you that our pets can also help when we’re feeling down. Domestic pets who live with us,[who are part of our family] are an integral part of our daily lives. They have a unique special bond with us, and they too have their individual qualities in their characteristic make-up!

    ‘Celestial Paws’ is a new service for pets.

    Kindest Regards

    Fiona C

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