Home Cycle, Horace and ElizabethnRobedaux remember the birthday ofntheir dead daughter, Jenny. “I thoughtnlater I’d walk out to the cemetery andntake a flowering plant of some kind.nMaybe a poinsettia,” Elizabeth says. “Indon’t forget her. I remember Mrs.nHuston telling me at the time I would,nbut I don’t. It’s like Mama says, younthink of her differently than the others,nbut you think of her.”nMrs. Huston says one thing, butnMama says the other . . . The memorynof Jenny’s birthday is not private; thendiflFering opinions of the communitynare attached to the event so firmly thatnJenny remains — for her mother,nanyway — a member of the community.nTo think of this birthday is to comparencommunal views about our relationshipnwith the dead.nThe characters whom Foote hasndrawn as happy or content are thosenwho have found a way to come tonterms with the past, who have in somensense made their peace with the dead.nMrs. Watts in The Trip to Bountifulnwants to die in her home, a place thatnhas vanished from the face of the earth.nTwelve miles from her destination shenis apprehended by a sheriff- and to himnshe makes her plea: “Let me go thesentwelve miles . . . before it’s too late.nUnderstand me. Suffering I don’tnmind. Suffering I understand. I didn’tnprotest once! Even though my heartnwas broken when those babies died.nBut these fifteen years of bickering, ofnendless, petty bickering. It’s made menlike Jessie Mae sees me. It’s ugly. I willnnot be that way. I want to go home. Inwant to go home.”n”Suffering I understand,” she says,nbut she does not. She only means herenthat she has experienced a great deal ofnsuffering and expects it as a normalnpart of life. But she does not comprehendnwhy suffering is necessary. Earliernshe has confessed to Thelma, hernseatmate on the bus, the great shamenof her life, the fact that she wasn’t innlove with her husband. “Do you believenwe are punished for the things wendo wrong? I sometimes think that’snwhy I’ve had all my trouble. I’ve talkednto many a preacher about it; all but onensaid they didn’t think so. But I can’t seenany other reason.”nOn one side, then, Mrs. Watts’ tripnto Bountiful is a penitential pilgrimagentoward expiation. On the other side, itn36/CHRONICLESnis the satisfying of a compulsive need tonmake sure that her past actually didntake place, that her identity is consonantnwith the facts of her life as shenknows them. It is an ordinary fate innour century to become an orphan ofnhistory: our parents and relatives die ornare killed, the towns where we werenborn, or even the nations, change theirnnames and are robbed of their culturesnand heritages, sometimes even of theirnlanguages. Our present life is so puzzlingnin shape, so hysterical in tone, soninimical in its daily details, that it seemsnmerely phantasmal, a nightmarish delusion.nHow could we get from thenthere that we remember to the herenthat is so dreadful to endure? Thenbridges between past and present havenbeen destroyed, and Foote’s charactersnhave to make extraordinary efforts tonreach toward the past, to assure themselvesnthat their memories are true andnnot illusory daydreams.nThe Death of the Old Man is antelevision play of 1953. It is told innsubjective camera from the point ofnview of Will Mayfield, the old mannwho has been rendered speechless bynstroke. He hears his sons discussing thenfate of their maiden aunt, Rosa, andndeciding that they are unable to takenher in. One of the sons explains hisnfeelings: “I refuse to.feel guilty over it.nI’d like to be with Papa and open mynhome to Rosa and the world, but thentimes have changed, Tom. People can’tnlive that way anymore.”nIn his paralysis, the old man hearsnthese words and makes a fearful vow,nalmost Lear-like in its sudden but powerlessnintensity: “Let me out of thisnbed … let me out . . . I’ll worknagain. I’ll fill the banks with money. I’llnbuy houses and land and protect usnfrom the dark days because kindnessnhas gone from the worid, generositynhas vanished.”nAs it turns out in the play, Rosa findsna place for herself and Will Mayfieldnnndies, as he tells us, “in peace andncontentment.” But this happiness isnmade possible by particular circumstances,nand there is no defense against thendebilitating and sometimes brutalizingnchanges that time brings.nThere is no defense but there arensome momentary stays against confusion.nWhile the community exists, it isnpossible and comforting to take a placenin it. Religion offers no final answersnfor Foote’s stricken searchers, no finalnsecurity, but it does give a steadynsolace, some part of which is social innnature. The best attitude to take seemsnthat of Mac Sledge in Tender Mercies,nwhose quizzical Christian stoicism putsnmore than a measure of faith in humannrelationships and none at all in worldlyncircumstance. “You; see*f’ He s~ays, “ftndon’t trust happiness. I never,did. Innever will.”nMac’s ouffook appears cheerless, butnhe understands it—as Foote seems tonunderstand it — as reality. Yet, if therenis little coziness in his philosophy, therenis never the kind of heartbreak in it thatnPhil Massey discovers in his fantasies.nThe Land of the Astronauts is a oneactnplay of 1988 and depicts Foote’snfamiliar Texas landscape as havingnchanged into a ©isneyland where,ndreams of the luminous futuire can _naddle a man like Massey, deceive, himninto believing that happiness is justnbarely beyond his outstretched fingers.nMassey describes his longing andnfrustration with these words: “I work inna restaurant and I go to school at night.nDay after day. Year after year. Andnnothing happens. I go to Houston tonlook for work and nothing happens andnnothing is going to happen and I wantnsomething to happen. Is that too muchnto ask? I want something for once tonhappen to me. Why can’t I go up intonspace and leave this earth and all itsntroubles and frustrations behind?”nHis wife Lorena makes a reply thatnembodies Horton Foote’s deepest con-n