Saturday, October 1, 2022

The V.I.P. Room


This is a photograph of Papa Callan at the Martin Van Buren House here in Kinderhook. This is from a few years ago, when we took a little tour and my father noticed "The Callan Room." Papa Callan decided to pose before the sign. We never did figure out why the Callan Family got a V.I.P. Room, although the Callan name is all around Columbia County. In fact, there's a Callan Park in Valatie and people have told me about the old newspaper column in The Chatham Courier called "The Man with the Black Hat", written by the late Albert S. Callan. We're somehow related. Distant cousins, I believe.

But, back to the V.I.P. Room.

This topic came up again during his final stay at the hospital, less than a year ago. Papa Callan had been moved out of the I.C.U. and into a regular hospital unit and when I came to visit him, he asked me if he was in the same room as the day before.

"No," I said, "you're in a different room."

He replied, "well, it's a very nice room." 

Truthfully, it was not much of a room. It was a hospital room and not very pleasant. And at this point, he had a little curtain beside his bed and a new roommate. However, I agreed with him and said, “Yes, it’s a very nice room." And then, just to make light of a fairly serious situation, I added, "you're in the V.I.P. room."

Papa Callan looked at me, obviously pleased by this new bit of information, and then he said, "well, I was a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy. That's a pretty high rank. That's why they put me in this room."

At the time I thought this was pretty funny and typical of Papa Callan--the way he could pick up the threads of something that was rather dull and sad and weave it into an original story, transforming the narrative into a little theatrical production, where he is the hero, the Lieutenant Commander in the Navy—out to go to battle with the enemy—in this case, the enemy being his own demise.

Yes, his own demise, because this was one of our last conversations, and he ultimately lost that battle.

However, I still take solace and more than a little inspiration from our little exchange.

To be creative and to make art necessitates the willingness to play within the world of make-believe. And, to do this, a little magical thinking is helpful. While a part of you may know the true futility of your circumstances and your efforts to change those circumstances, it's vital that you protect that other part of you--the imaginative part of you, the part of you that will always, no matter what—dream and play and make-believe, the part of you that will spin narratives out of all sorts of tragedy and confusion, out of hospital rooms and even natural disasters.

Creative friends--we don’t have control over the world—not really. Nonetheless, my assignment for you this week is to look around at your environment and imagine you're in the V.I.P. Room. Imagine you are the luckiest person in the world. See yourself as being important, because, after all, you are the captain of your own ship.

And, as always, have fun.




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