"Daddy, where are the keys?"
A simple question asked of a critically ill father by his 42 year-old daughter hoping to open the safe deposit box.
But what if the father's pride gets in the way of answering and the mother doesn't know who you are?
Such was the crisis facing Tania Richard, a Chicago actress and playwright whose solo show, "Truth Be Told," premieres this July at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, produced by Fleetwood Jourdain Theater and directed by Tim Rhoze.
In the span of eight months Ms. Richard, a mother of four, dealt with the rapid descent of both parents, retired physicians from Haiti, and was thrust into a caregiver role.
"The MTV generation is middle aged," says Richard, "and most of us are not prepared to care for Mom and Dad, let alone know their wishes regarding end of life issues. I hope this serves as a cautionary tale."
Her father's death, four weeks after being diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, came shortly after her mother was formally diagnosed with dementia. Subsequently Ms. Richard discovered a series of shocking secrets about her family and childhood narrative.
The discoveries left more questions than answers. Why, for example, had she and her two sisters grown up in a beautiful suburban home, with jet setting parents, luxury cars and private schools, yet her parents died financially destitute?
"My parents were private people," Richard says, "My mother went to the same hairdresser for 30 years but wouldn't tell him she was a doctor (an OB/GYN) because, in her words, she didn't like to brag."
She describes how her father, a surgeon, seemed to "float above everything instead of staying for the long haul" in a loving yet emotionally absent manner.
Ms. Richard began writing for catharsis then workshopped "Truth Be Told" as the story of her relationship with her mother, confined to a nursing home, after her father's death.
"Truth Be Told" is an exploration of the virtues of truth and the possible value of lying; a comic odyssey that inspires audiences to seek the truth in their own lives before it is too late.
Truth Be Told premieres in July 2012 at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center in Evanston, IL. More information can be found here.
The author is Tania Richard's husband.