Tag Archives: doctor who

The Exterminate Shirt

The Exterminate Shirt

The Exterminate Shirt

It isn’t often my son has a big, happy reaction to something.  Happy reaction being the best description.

My son is a very sweet, imaginative and smart little boy.  The loss of his mother, though, hit him really hard.  It’s been three years and that loss still has a shadow that hangs over his life.  I can only imagine, though the loss hit me hard, too.  Since that loss was, for me, my partner, friend and wife, the loss is different for me.  For my son – for all my kids, for that matter – the adjustment isn’t an easy one.

We do a lot of things differently than we did three years ago and that’s by necessity.  At the very beginning I tried to do things like we always had.  The result was the fact that our house was constantly a mess, in constant disarray and I felt completely inept caring for my kids.  Since then, though, we’ve been able to hit a kind of stride.  I redecorated the house slightly.  I removed old decorator items that were constantly in the way and didn’t match what I wanted.  I cook the meals, I do the laundry.

But making those adjustments helped me to…well…adjust, for lack of a better word.  That doesn’t do it for my kids all the time.

My son has some difficult issues to overcome.  He doesn’t like dealing with the fact that he lost his Mom.  As a result he is very self-conscious as well.  He has a sore on his arm that is healing and that makes him very nervous.  He wears long-sleeved shirts and puts a jacket on in the morning.  I tell him no one will notice, it’s nothing too big or bad.  When he got kicked, accidentally, in the eye he got a black eye and was worried.  It wasn’t about how he looked he didn’t like how people looked at me with a disapproving eye.

In the end, I realized it made him feel better and I let him wear the coats and shirts with the caveat that he changes to short sleeved if it gets too hot.

But being sort of geeky about the television show Doctor Who my kids will watch any episode – even the scary ones – over and over again.  They have their own sonic screwdrivers, a device the hero of the show owns.

So when I saw a random t-shirt of a villain from the show, whose key, scary, intense line is one word: “EXTERMINATE!”, I bought it.  They had one shirt left, and it had to come from England.

But when it showed up I realized only one shirt meant only one kid got a shirt . . . when I took it out I assumed my other son would want it.  Instead, the boy you see up there went “Oh my gosh!  I LOVE that!  I am SO wearing that to school tomorrow!”

“You wouldn’t have a long-sleeve shirt on, though”
“I don’t care.  That’s cool!”

I looked at him, rubbed his head, and smiled.  It’s a long way he’s come from three years ago…when he was too shy and too sad to stand out.  He just wanted to fade into the crowd.

Now he’s letting his geek flag fly and walking around with a t-shirt of his favorite show.  The smile never left his face the entire evening.

When I tucked him into bed he had the shirt laid out and ready to wear.  I hugged and kissed them both and told his brother that I’d get him a different shirt later.  This, after all, was a big step.
“It’s okay,” said his brother.  “Noah loves that shirt.  He can have it.”

Yes…we’ve got a long way to go.  But it took an exterminate shirt to show me how far we’ve come.

The Night…err…Day of the Doctor

Slate on the Screen just before the movie
Slate on the Screen just before the movie

On Sunday I posted a piece on Rene Syler’s Good Enough Mother about how watching the TV show Dr. Who brings my family together.  You can click on that link if you want to have the details of why.

But tonight, my dear readers, was the night.

You see, normally I don’t get snowed by my kids’ whining or crying or complaining that they don’t get the same things as other kids or that they desperately want to do something.  I don’t even fall for the “I’ll clean the house/bathroom/kitchen/do laundry/clean my room begging, either.  I’ve been parenting alone for too long to fall for that.  If anything, their rooms will look worse and I’ll be lucky to keep the areas of the house where everyone sits in working order.

But when my son, Sam, who never complains much, was talking to the woman cutting his hair a couple weeks ago I overheard him.  He didn’t think I could hear him out in the front lobby, but I did.  He talked, incessantly, about Doctor Who, the 50th Anniversary special (which actually aired – for free – on Saturday November 23rd) and how the theaters were showing it only on Monday, November 25th, and it was in 3D!  That was followed by “but my Dad says we can’t go.  We can still watch it on TV, though.”

Waiting for The Day of the Doctor
Waiting for The Day of the Doctor

So I caved in.  No, it wasn’t from embarrassment, nor was it feeling sorry for Sam.  No, the reason I caved?  The fact that he wasn’t complaining.  The lack of complaint or expectation that I’d take him to the theater just made me make meals with a few more things in the freezer or stretch the grocery budget just a bit so that I could take all three of them to the theater to see it.  I had them have sandwiches for dinner and raced home from work so we could get to the theater in time to print the tickets I’d bought in advance.

2013-11-25 18.38.44When we arrived . . . there was a line out the door.  Literally.  I figured on a Monday night, two days after the show aired on BBC America, there’d be hardly anyone at the theater.  I was so totally wrong.  The first two showings (of four, they had to add 3 more) were sold out when I got there.  (Thank God for Fandango advance tickets)  We saw every permutation of every character from the show.  My sons looked around in wonder, telling me they should have dressed up . . . because nearly everyone was.

2013-11-25 19.00.57The funniest part – and this is truly funny – the theater posted a bunch of security around the people in the queue waiting to go into their respective theaters.  Security.  Like a bunch of geeky people (myself included, not delusional here) dressed up like a silly madman in a blue box standing in line were a riot concern.  “None of us has the strength to hurt anyone,” my daughter Hannah commented.  “It’s not like the crowd that might come to a Metallica movie.”

The theater was packed.  The movie had trivia in front of it.  (Did you know Ridley Scott was originally tasked with creating the Daleks and was moved to a different department at the last minute?!)  A special introduction by a Who alien creature and then by both Matt Smith and David Tennant – stars of the movie – with a cameo by John Hurt.  There was a showing of a making-of after the movie.

And my kids sat, in stunned and abject awe, staring at the 3D screen with their show, larger than life.  When a brief glimpse of the next man to play the Doctor appeared . . . then the eccentric and elusive actor who played the 4th incarnation . . . my kids burst into applause and laughter.  They all knew who they were.

My daughter and her friends
My daughter and her friends

It’s not often I can sit with my kids at an event – and that’s what this was, an event – and be enraptured not by the event itself but by the enthusiasm and happiness of my kids.  But that’s what this was.  Happiness, there’s not other word for it.

2013-11-25 19.19.28Sheer joy – and that’s a word I don’t often use, joy.  But staying up past their bedtime, having Icees, and watching their favorite show, a night of the Doctor (okay, Day of, there was a prequel called “night”.  Sue me)

There was nothing quite so joyous.

That’s Powerful Stuff . . .

Powerful Stuff by the Fabulous Thunderbirds

Sometimes there is powerful stuff (to quote the Fabulous Thunderbirds) out there that you can’t avoid.  I can avoid what I can’t see coming.  It’s the stuff I didn’t know was out there that get to me.

There are a few things that I must admit, even though we enjoyed them as a family, I was able to retain possession.  I lost several of my favorite Clapton songs.  “Wonderful Tonight” I simply cannot hear on the radio, television or even Muzak.  Our first dance, first kiss, wedding dance, all were to that song.  Cannot hear it without losing it.  “Layla” kills me, though I’m at a point where I can finally listen to it.  I don’t watch any of the vampire shows she loved so much.  I can’t see many of the dramas.  I don’t order from one particular pizza chain . . . they’re things I simply have to avoid because they’re parts of my life she stole away when she left.

But I retained one particular television show, a Sci-Fi program decades old and my favorite as a kid.  She hated the ’60s-’70s version for its bad special effects and liked the new one but didn’t make it a point to watch it every week.

Yes.  I’m a geek, a troubled, self-conscious, certified hard and fast Whovian.  I love the TV show Doctor Who.  (For the hardcore fans, you’ll notice I didn’t use Dr. I spelled it out)  I mean, as a kid, I was obsessed.  I had the giant scarf, the rumpled brown hat, just needed the curls and the teeth.  When they re-booted the show I was aghast and enamored at the same time.  The special effects had reached modern day and the writing was brilliant.  I had to convince my wife to watch with the kids because she actually had full disdain for the program.

This isn’t a commercial for the show, bear with me, there’s a point.

The writer and executive producer of the current incarnation is brilliant.  But I didn’t know how brilliant.  Some people just get it, if you know what I mean.  My situation is certainly one where people don’t really understand and it seems easy to just say you’re sorry and that things will be OK.  By the way, telling someone like me that I shouldn’t worry, it’s all for the best, there’s a plan, a foretelling or a future that I just don’t know about . . . worst possible thing to tell me.  Why?  Because I hate the idea there’s a “plan” that involved me marrying an amazing woman only to lose her when I needed her most.  Screw the plan!  What happened to my free will in all this?!

But back to Who.  I love the show and my kids love it, too, which makes me happy.  My oldest . . . well, she doesn’t.  Or perhaps she does but doesn’t want the cool people to know that she does because, in England it’s the highest rated program and here it’s a cult hit.  I can watch it, possibly because it changes so much from year to year or episode to episode.

Every Christmas they put on a spectacle that’s over an hour long and involves some sort of catastrophe.  We wanted so desperately to watch it on Christmas day but time, relatives and reality just got in our way.  We ended up waiting until last night.

It’s the only time I’ve walked out in the middle of an episode.

Understand, it wasn’t that the episode was terrible, it was great.  But it’s called “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe.”  A woman loses her husband to WWII at the beginning of the picture.  Midway through they’re visiting an old manor house to get away from the bombing and she hasn’t told her children that their father isn’t coming home.  She yells at them at a particular moment in the episode and says she doesn’t know why.  She doesn’t want Christmas to be forever known as the day their father was taken away.

“They’re just so happy and . . . ”
“. . . and you know once you tell them they’ll never be happy like this again.”

Or words to that effect.

The writer producer, Steven Moffat, in one phrase didn’t just twist, he wrenched the knife in my heart.  Without speaking or writing those words myself, the program had hit the point perfectly.  Not only was I the bearer of bad news, I was the harbinger of disappointment.  On March 26th I walked in and even though there was no choice in the matter, I was ripping a large part of their innocence away.  I knew that every bit of happiness from this point on would be touched with a shadow.  A spot of regret and misery that would filter into everything.  It would dim, for sure, and maybe disappear occasionally, but don’t you believe it goes away for good.  The shadow stays forever and I knew that the moment I walked in and said I had to tell them all something that the shadow would start to grow.

It’s back to something I’ve said many times before.  The big things like Christmas Day, birthdays, holidays, songs, all those things we know will hit us.  It’s the stuff from out in left field, the line in our favorite show or the picture or the worst thing – smells – that throw me into a tizzy.  You just never know what’s going to hit you.

I walked out into the hallway until I could pull myself together.  The kids didn’t know anything, how could they?  They weren’t the ones who had to tell someone their Mom wasn’t coming home.  If the writers and producer of that program haven’t suffered this kind of loss I don’t know how to explain their getting it so beautifully right!  It’s a sci-fi show, an effects laden extravaganza with an impossible plot and improbable ideas.  It’s why I love it so much.

I don’t pretend to be able to cope.  I can’t go back and un-watch a show any more than I can go back and stop Andrea from dying.  I can see these things for what they are, and that’s getting something the way it really is, getting it right.  For every post I put here, shows like this who tell people what that sadness really is, not a simplistic tragedy that can be whitewashed with platitudes but a powerful thing that can have an impact on our whole future.

I don’t hide those emotions, I hide those tears.  It’s OK for my kids to know they can feel these things and deal with them.  But they also need to know their father is strong enough to shoulder their burdens, even if it’s just so much smoke and mirrors as the sci-fi show they’re watching.  At least they know, they have someone who can help them.

There’s someone who can help them deal with the powerful stuff.