Mister and I went to see a movie last night called When Did You Last See Your Father? starring the still-dreamy-after-all-these-years Colin Firth. It’s a small, quiet English film about a man and his father. The father is quickly dying of cancer, and Colin Firth spends most of the time reflecting about his relationship with this quirky, imperfect man. At the end of the movie the father is pretty far gone (he’s played by the brilliant Jim Broadbent) and Colin tries to remember when the last time was that he saw his father. The last time his father was really, unmistakably himself. It was quite moving, but not as depressing as it sounds.
Mister cried because it made him think of his own father who is getting older and less healthy every time we see him. It made me cry because I can’t really answer that question. I last saw my father at my wedding in 1992. I’m sure I must have kissed and hugged him, but I have no recollection of it. His life was such that he had to wait outside the temple during the wedding. I’m sure that must have been humiliating for him, but I was so self-absorbed at the time (and angry at his pathetic lifestyle) that I’m sure I must have given him the cold-shoulder. His divorce from my mother had just been finalized a week or two before my wedding, and my mother was a basket case. In the pictures they are standing next to each other, but there is a definite rift of coldness evident.
I have never been particularly close to my father. I only spoke to him a couple of times after my wedding. I didn’t even go to his wedding a few months after mine. A year and a half after my wedding, I kept feeling like I needed to talk to him. I called his office one day and his secretary told me he was in Chicago on business. I figured I’d just talk to him when he got back. His secretary passed a long the message that I’d called and he called me back right in the middle of his conference. This was back before cell phones, so calling me was a big deal. I just told him that I loved him and made small talk. That was about it. Several days later his heart started to bother him. He was only 53, and quite healthy. At least we thought he was healthy. He went in for a routine angioplasty and died within hours of his surgery. I met his wife at the funeral. She was very, very nice and we still keep in touch.
I felt indifferent for a long time after he died. It wasn’t until I had children that I realized what I was missing. I know he still feels bad about our relationship. Occasionally I have dreams where he comes to say hello and tell me that he loves me. I know that those dreams are more than just my subconscious. Arianne had a dream a few hours before York was born that my father was the one who would be ushering him into him into life. As York has grown older that has made complete sense. He and my dad are two peas in a pod.
I guess that more importanly than “when did I last see my father?” is “when will I see him again?” That will be a great day.