Closer to the Heart

Closer to the Heart by Rush from the LP “Gold”

Yeah, I know, it’s a Rush song.  Sue me.  You’ll see the reason why it fits in a minute . . .

Yesterday was my puffed-up, love my daughter, father-lessons-from-movies moment.  Here I thought I had this amazing couple weeks to help have some time with Abbi and help her and share some warm fuzzy moments with her.  Then came tonight.

As I said, she’s been into the Romance movie thing, and I’m not exactly holding back from it myself.  It’s been very nice for me to look at things through her eyes a little bit and I get more than a little bit of – God help me for saying this – hope from seeing the sparkle in her eyes.  My lord, she looks like her Mom when she gets that look.  Which, sadly, leads me to the foray we began tonight.

To give you some context to it all, I’m sitting here about 1:30am typing this.  Can’t really sleep.

I mentioned yesterday that I tend to go for the more realistic of films.  Not theOne Daykind of thing, where it cannot and does not end well, killing off one of the leads.  No, I tend to go for the ones that take you somewhere and might be a little funny and a lot realistic.  Unfortunately, sometimes my forays tend to get a bit too realistic and those damn movie trailers do very little to give you the full picture of what you’re opening your heart to for 90 to 120 minutes.  Don’t get me wrong, either, that’s what you’re doing.  It may be in the theater or in your living room, but you’re opening your rib cage just slightly to let those emotions in and out – both directions – in order to feel something.  You may think you’re feeling love and happiness, but you can’t always get that without the other emotions, either.

Last night I pulled some movie off iTunes that I simply couldn’t remember having seen.  It was, though, written, directed and acted by Bonnie Hunt.  I’ve always thought she was more than just funny, but had that touch of reality that you needed, not the sickening sweetness that is pervasive today, and certainly not so sad that you collapse on the floor.  But I couldn’t remember this, it was older, Carroll O’Connor was in it and it starred Minnie Driver and David Duchovny.  That should give you an idea of the era it was made.  It was calle dReturn to Me. 

It should have been quirky, cute, real and funny.  It was all that.  But I wasn’t aware that not only would it be about a girl who had a heart transplant.  It was about a girl who had a heart transplant . . . and a guy that loses his wife quickly, horribly, and painfully.  You get where this is going, right?  Now . . . I can’t be angry or dismayed by it – other than the fact that somehow, amazingly, they got it just so right.  Not the romance, it has a twist and quirky gut-wrenching turn I won’t go into, but the beginning . . . where the main guy loses his wife . . . dear God that hurt.

Abbi and I were both on the couch.  The accident has her in the hospital, dragged into another room without her husband.  The next shot, he’s going in the house talking about needing to walk the dog.  He talks about having to clean up.  Duchovny’s friend comes up and says he’s there to help and will be there at a moment’s notice if he needs something . . . then breaks down crying and hugs him, looking more for comfort himself than giving it.  This isn’t the only thing . . . he spots a note from his wife saying how much she loves him hanging on the fridge.  When he ushers the friend out the door he notices that their dog is waiting at the door for Mom to come home.  He sinks down, tells him that she’s not coming home again . . . and loses it, in the most God-awful, realistic way.  He even – and I did this – falls right there in place and falls asleep on the floor.  He’s wearing the same clothes he had on when he got there.

That killed me.  I mean, I’ve had waves of emotion and sadness before.  I just wasn’t prepared for that.  I have no idea what Bonnie Hunt’s personal life is like.  I don’t know if she knows people who’ve lost their wives.  If she doesn’t or hasn’t, dear God she’s intuitive.  I had to get up halfway into the scene and go to the kitchen.  I knew Abbi was crying.  I didn’t want her to think I couldn’t handle it.  It’s not some testosterone-induced male thing.  She’s 17, sure, but I’m her Dad.  She doesn’t need me breaking down at every reminder of her Mom, she needs to know that when she does I’m going to be there to hold her up.  So I got up and made a pitcher of iced-tea.  I got a dessert.  Sure, I’m probably not fooling her, she’s my daughter after all.  She’s sometimes smarter than I am.  But I have to at least make the attempt, and hopefully that makes the difference to her.

We both liked the movie.  We really did.  But I came to realization that reality is just too hard to face sometimes.  Sure, I’ve written about all those events – so much I won’t subject you to them again here – but those are words on a page (OK, screen) not conversation.  It’s been drafted, thought-through, and revised here and there.  What you don’t see is what I go through writing them.  You don’t see me smile when  I can almost feel the gentle brush of her lips on my cheek when I talk of kissing her goodbye each morning.  You don’t hear the crack in my voice when I would talk about seeing the kids’ faces in difficult times.  You don’t see the glassy, wavering moisture that coats my cornea as I think about where she should be.  You don’t see the track down my cheek the tear takes as I realize Im crying when the drop hits the bottom of my laptop when writing.

Reality is easy to chronicle when you can face it in short bursts on a page like this.  When you have 2 hours of it thrust in front of you, pulling you in different directions and you don’t see it coming, it’s like being on a fair ride where you can’t see the track.  The car changes direction and your body is thrown around because you can’t anticipate where it’s taking you.  It’s a lot harder to face that way than when you can walk away from it and come back – like I can here.

So I’m sitting here hours after watching the movie wondering why – yet again – the cable channels run Friends for hours and on every channel (are they giving it away for free?!) and not really watching.  My bed seems particularly empty.  My body particularly flabby.  My life particularly missing a piece . . . still.  I know the vacant space won’t get filled again, it can’t.  But the reminders really throw me for a loop.

Then Sam came in my room . . . without saying what’s wrong he asked if he can come in the bed with me.  It’s not the remnants of his sunburn, he’s crying.  “Of course, hop in buddy,” is my response.  He feels safe, I guess, because in a few minutes he starts to fall asleep.

So while reality has pulled me in strange directions tonight, it’s also brought me back.  I look at my son and realize that those few moments where I couldn’t face what I saw on that glossy screen also open my heart up a little to what Istillhave . . . and as I hear Abbi fiddle with the lightswitch in the downstairs bathroom, Hannah snore next door, and suddenly hear the resigned sigh from Sam next to me as the tension and worry leaves his body .  . .

I realize that through all of this, I still am pretty lucky.  I’m closer to reality than I’ve been in awhile.

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4 thoughts on “Closer to the Heart”

  1. Beautiful Dave.
    I love that movie… and I love Bonnie Hunt. She does have a special reality that she injects in everything she’s in. (Her morning talk show was just about the most entertaining thing I ever watched. So odd how the best stuff never seems to stay on the air!)

    And oh my, I’m picturing that scene where he tells the dog… so hard to watch for anyone who loves anybody. I’m sure it hit you right in the heart.

    Blessings to you.

  2. I literally stopped watching movies for quite awhile after being surprised by a very traumatic scene in a movie that completely mimicked a real life traumatic event almost exactly right before my eyes. I had to leave the room I was crying so hard. I slowly started watching movies again but let me tell you, they were all “Avengers” types of movies at first where nothing about them was even close to real life. I’m getting better but I still err on the side of caution. It’s brutal to go through that – especially when you don’t know it’s coming.

  3. Even after 13 years, I can’t watch movies like that without bawling. Knowing from experience how it feels to lose a spouse, best friend, lover, mentor…. Seeing someone in that much pain opens the wound just a little bit and, in my opinion, makes you a little more human.

  4. After Jason died, there were many movies I couldn’t watch. Since he died in a car accident (hit by a drunk driver), it was difficult for me to watch movies with car accidents or movies with senseless deaths portrayed so callously. Movies about parents losing children – I still can’t watch them. Part of the problem is that the reactions and emotions are so far from reality – like “getting over” the death of a child in six months or a year. Not realistic in the least.

    Good post.

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