Sunday, January 29, 2012

Losing Dad

    When I was working in the Radiation Safety Office at USC, I walked over to help a marine biologist, with the improbable name of Jeb Fuhrman, who couldn't get the campus-wide computer network to update his inventory of radioactive chemicals.
     I said, "Hey, I'm going to stand here, right behind you, and watch.  You have the font set too small on your computer."
     He peered up at me through glasses that looked like a matching pair of magnifying lenses, and groused, "How old are you?"
     "Forty.  Why?"
     He swiveled away from me and said, "Yeah, that's when it happens."

     A couple of weeks later I was the proud owner of a set of prescription reading glasses.

     My father died when I was 22 months old.  I don't remember him.  I have a few things of his: his East German 35 mm film camera, a brass button from his Hungarian army uniform, his wedding ring from when he was married to my mom (it is now my wedding ring for being married to my wife), his cuff links, and his glasses.  Lately, through a miracle of heredity, I have been able to wear his glasses. 

     Wow, I'm wearing Dad's glasses.  And they work perfectly for my eyes. Interesting, how we like to wear somebody else's stuff: a kid wears his dad's coat, a wife wears her husband's shirt.  It really does make you feel closer to that other person.

     So, of course, this week I put the glasses on, and the frame broke.  It exploded.  It flew apart with a dry crunch that only 50 year old plastic can give.

    My first instinct was to keep them, anyway.  Logic prevailed, and after I snapped a picture, I threw them out.  What you don't see in this photo are the multiple small shards of plastic from when the frame exploded.  Still, the act of tossing my father's glasses into the kitchen trash can was painful.

     The same thing happens to Oskar Schell in "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close".  The movie trailers and newspaper advertisements make it clear that this movie is about a kid who lost his father--played by Tom Hanks--on 9/11.  Despite knowing this, and knowing that the movie is about how young Oskar sets out on his journey to heal his soul by connecting with others who knew his father, I wanted to see what happens.  I wanted to see how the story unfolds.  I'm glad I went to see this movie. 

     I remember where I was when 9/11 happened.  I was married to my first wife, and it was two months since my mom had died.  I was getting ready to go to work, making coffee in the kitchen, while listening to the local NPR station, KPCC, which used to broadcast from the campus of Pasadena City Collge (hence the name KPCC).  They announced that a large plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.  Well, that was weird.  I went into the living room, turned on the TV, and saw the second plane crash into the second tower.

     I could kiss the screenwriter, Eric Roth.  I hope they give him an Oscar for best adapted screenplay.  He didn't make the movie unbearably saccharine e.g. a post-9/11 version of "Terms of Endearment".  The lady in the row behind me said to her husband, "This was intense."  Good description.  I'd like to know what all of the room-temperature IQ film critics out there were smoking when they wrote their scathing reviews of tis movie.  They're idiots.

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