In this way, my mother's movie might actually lead to a cure and this would change the world for women in a small but significant way.
JB: Wouldn't that be great? So, now you're on hold, so to speak, while the movie gets made and awareness is raised about preeclampsia. I know you've been writing in the meantime. But, how're you doing? Are you out of your depression?
DS: One of the wonderful things about a screenplay is that you can go back to work on it again and again, like knitting. You can crack it open and rewrite scenes in a few hours work without disturbing the whole. Unlike when you are writing a novel and it must be front and center in your life each day. So I do this almost every day, I slip into my mother's screenplay and rewrite this or that. I am telling myself that this script will be a small masterpiece and that the movie will make a difference in this world. But I am still haunted by my mother's story, by her sacrifice and by the fact that she was largely forgotten after she died in 1950. In 2008, I went off to Scotland to learn to be a caddie when I was 58 years old. Part of this was to fulfill a promise I had made to my son, Jack, when he was a little boy-- I promised him if he ever became good enough at golf to make it to a pro tour, I would be his caddie. Really, it was just a father wanting to walk beside his son for as long as he could. But when Jack got good, I decided to learn to be a caddie. So I went to St. Andrews, Scotland. It was an exile of sorts. I was telling myself that I needed to take a long walk. I took my mother's screenplay with me of course and I worked on it every morning from 4am until 6:30. But when I went to work each day as a caddie, I had the chance to leave behind my story and to enter the story of a stranger. This felt like such a privilege to me. And I walked almost one thousand miles carrying golf clubs that season of 2008. I worked the 187 day season without a single day off. And yes, gradually, the depression lifted because I was in the company of such wonderful characters-- the golfers I caddied for, but especially the Scottish boys who were my colleagues. Once they knew that I was there to learn from them so I could be of use to my son one day on his first pro tour, they embraced me. They held me up!
JB: I'm eager to talk about Walking with Jack, Don, which I loved. But, let's save that for later, if you don't mind. I'm wondering how you've dealt with what you learned about your mother. Ultimately, you and your brother are here because of the conscious choice that she made. That must be a toughie for you. I'm particularly sensitive to this because many, many years ago, I had twins myself and literally didn't know it until after the first one emerged. I can't imagine what I would have done if things had turned out differently.
DS: There is no easy answer to this. I have the survivor's guilt of course because my mother gave up her life for me. It is made complicated by the fact that I became a writer. As a writer, I have the responsibility to carry my mother's story as far as I can in this world. And as a son whenever I'm feeling haunted by my mother's death at age 19, I can turn back to my writing and write about it in the screenplay. So the writing is both the illness and the cure, if you will. If I didn't have the script to work on, I might have just given up my life completely.
JB: Does it help to have a twin with whom to share this newfound knowledge, this journey?
DS: Yes, my brother has been very helpful. A kindred spirit. We are in this together.
JB: Has all of this made you two closer? Do you view it the same way?