After writing last week’s post about my own self-induced slothfulness, youngest daughter and I got dressed and left the house long enough to gather less-than-healthy movie food and came back to watch “Saving Mr. Banks.”
I knew the base premise of the movie, but not much more. I figured if it had Emma Thompson in it, it had to be good. I knew that it had something to do with fathers and daughters and, you know, imperfections. What I didn’t know was how much I needed to watch that movie.
The sixth anniversary of my own father’s death went by not unnoticed, but unregarded. I called my mom a day or two after and apologized, saying that something was niggling me about that date, but that I couldn’t put my finger on it until much later. She said that none of the four of us had called–for the first time–and she figured it was because we had all moved on. I can’t answer for my siblings, but for me, it was less about moving on and more about being consumed by other things that seemed more dire and present. More about that in another 6 years or so.
My daughter and I were chin-deep in chocolate-y goodness when the scene came on where the writers sing “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” to “Mrs.” for the first time and about 3/5ths into the scene, I found myself weeping silently into my chocolate. In that moment, I knew I was being taken somewhere else and the movie in my head overtook the one on the screen. In that moment, I saw my dad singing that song and I saw his silliness and his expressiveness that years of being an adult had robbed of me–and of him. I saw him singing that song, I saw him telling stories to my daughters, I saw him playing pirates on our deck with them, I saw him wearing my great-nephews hat with that look that always reminds me of “Dopey” of dwarf-fame. I saw him eating home-made ice cream in his hospital bed in the corner of my mother’s family-room, surrounded by my mother and one of his dearest friends–the one who had brought the ice cream. I saw my dad not in the images I’d held to strongly over the last many, many years–of his judgement, of his disappointment, of his … imperfections.
I got to say goodbye to some images in that moment. I got to say goodbye to my own anger and disappointment in my father’s imperfections. I got to see the way he did try to create fun for those around him, that he had a singular view of the world that brought us all joy–sometimes, I admit, at his expense.
In that moment, I saw my father smiling and I felt myself love him undeniably and I realized that I hadn’t allowed either of those things in many years. So, metaphorically and without my knowing it, in that moment that I wept the chocolate from my chin, I was tying a tail to that kite. It was a tail knotted with disappointment, bitterness, pain, and distance. And I let them all go. At least for that moment.
And this week was better than any week I remember in a long, long time. There was still work; there was still disappointment; there was still moments that could only be answered with chocolate, but I was better prepared to meet those moments because I wasn’t holding on to something invisible and unknown that was dragging me down, and down. And down.
The movie is, I think, probably pretty good on it’s own. For me, though, it was stunning catharsis… much as it appeared to be for “Mrs.” It allowed me to remember my father more fully–not through a lens of missed opportunities, but through a lens of missed understandings. They are different, those two things. And as I remember my father dancing around our living room, leading his merry band of misfits in a round of “Let’s go fly a kite,” I remember him with the love I know he felt in that moment.
Just like the song, that feeling was contagious and infected me fully. At least for this week.