“Let’s have Family Movie Night!” I announced.
We needed it. I’d just struggled through picking out Kevin’s gravestone, and we still had heart-wrenching weekend events to get through: attending my first wedding without him and going to a hospice-sponsored candle lighting ceremony. Too many emotions swirled around me – grief, sadness, uncertainty, loneliness, apathy. I needed a break. We needed some fun.
Family Movie Night was her Daddy’s idea for a family tradition. He loved-loved-loved watching movies. Mostly The Godfather, but he wasn’t above a good spy thriller or romantic comedy. He told stories about going to the movie theatre with his dad to watch movies they could never tell his mom about; about watching The Godfather III on Christmas Day the year it was released. To this day, I can tell you who he saw The Crying Game with, and who went with him to Daniel Craig’s second James Bond movie. Those stories, those moments, those movies – all woven into my life with him.
When we married, he was floored that I hadn’t seen The Godfather or Once Upon a Time in America or Cotton Club. I quickly turned the tables on him, aghast that he’d never curled up on the couch with ice cream and My Fair Lady or The African Queen.
In the years before the Bear arrived, we spent weekends at the theatre, passing a tub of popcorn, blinking when the lights came back up because we’d stayed through all the credits. After our daughter came along, most any evening could find us snuggled on the couch in front of the television, dinner plates on our laps, with a DVD in the player. When he picked the movie, it was usually an action flick or war film and when I’d bury my head in a pillow at too much violence or blood, he’d mute the sound and I’d wait for him to say, “Okay, baby doll, that part’s over now.” And when I’d pick – a musical or romantic comedy – I’d kiss his cheek and teasingly reassure him, “No, baby, of course women don’t really talk about guys like that.”
Movies were his thing. It became our thing, then a family thing.
“What’s new, babe?” I drawled out when I answered his afternoon calls. Chit-chat. Meetings. Ran into so-and-so at the library. Saw something on the Drudge Report. Mail came. Laughs, giggles, idle words, shared lives. Then, if it was a Friday, he always asked:
“How about Family Movie Night tonight?”
“Sure,” I teased, “there’s a new Dora cartoon on DVD. Can you get it on the way home?”
He’d laugh and agree to grab it. And some pizza and breadsticks. The best nights were when he surprised me with an icy-cold Mountain Dew, as well.
“Movie for Little Bear,” he’d say, handing her the DVD. Then he’d hand me the pizza boxes, lean in for a kiss, and with some clever sleight of hand, present me with the soda, “And a little something for my baby doll.”
We spread a towel on the floor in the front room for a picnic. He lounged in his recliner and passed his plate for another slice of pepperoni. She laughed and giggled at Swiper’s mischief-making. They watched for continuity errors and I shook my head, adoring both of them. Two peas in a pod with their movies.
She and I carried out our familiar routine that Friday night with Molly, An American Girl on the Homefront. We sat on a towel on the floor, pizza and breadsticks in front of us, Mountain Dew for me and Sierra Mist for her. We watched and laughed and compared it to the Molly books she’d just finished reading. We cheered when Molly’s mom read the letter saying her father was alive and safe and on his way home.
And then my daughter whispered, “I wish we could get a letter like that about Daddy.”
She crawled in my lap. I cuddled her and whispered back, “Me, too, little girl.”
We’re trying, we really are. We laugh and watch movies and keep up our family traditions because it’s how we keep him with us. It’s not easy because we miss him so much…his silliness and his sweet gestures and everything he did that told us we were his world. But we do it – through the sadness and the tears – because these traditions are our connection to him, it’s how we keep our little family together.
I’m pretty sure he’s giving us two thumbs up.