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A Missed Opportunity with my Dad

I’m going to share a father-son story, only, this time, I was the son.

For my entire life, I have always loved science fiction and, especially, Star Trek. And, as of the date of this post, that show is fifty years old and, today, September 8, 2016, is exactly the fiftieth anniversary of its first airing on the NBC television network. Even the day is the same…Thursday.

Well, I’m not old enough to have watched it in its first run, so I watched it on the local TV stations that aired it in syndication in the early 1970’s.  I watched intently.  I always imagined myself as Captain Kirk and went around with my ‘Star Trek Utility Belt’ and battled Klingons and Romulans, well, mostly Klingons…they were the cool enemy.

As I got older, my dad felt the character of Harcourt Fenton Mudd was more appropriate for me and he called me Mudd.  I didn’t care, I liked Harry Mudd and was ecstatic that the character was in three episodes (two in the original show and one animated episode…and, to my delight, he makes a cameo in a Deep Space Nine episode that incorporated The Trouble with Tribbles.) So, throughout my young life, I was known as Mudd.  There were times that I hated it, but, mostly, I just embraced my inner Mudd. You should too, there’s a little Harry Mudd in us all.

Well, in the mid-1970’s, there were these rumors of a new Star Trek TV show.  I was a TV Guide fanatic and read intently all of the rumors there and any where I could.  And, then, one day, it was true!

Paramount decided it was going to start what was, at the time, a fourth commercial TV network and Star Trek was going to be the flagship show.  I was so excited.That excitement, though, was short lived.  Paramount soon decided to scrap not only the network, but the show too!  There was some good news, though…they were going to make a big budget movie!  And, best of all, they got all of the main actors back, including Nimoy, who, at the time, hated everything related to Star Trek. Or, so it was said.

Well, fast forward a long year or so and the movie premiered.  My Dad had promised to take me to see it.  Well, at the time, my father had re-married and moved about fifty miles north of Richmond, to Fredericksburg.  I didn’t see him much during that time, maybe two weekends a month. Logistics more than anything else, was the problem.  Sometimes, it was my step mother who picked me up as my Dad worked evenings and I was still in school.

Well, it was, finally, time for the movie to open in Fredericksburg and my Dad said we would go.  Well, during that week, he went and saw the damned movie without me! I didn’t know until my step mother picked me up.  She got me early that Friday-I got out of school by three and she was waiting for me.

On that long drive – long to me – to Fredericksburg, we stopped in Ashland to see my Dad. That’s when he dropped the bomb on me.  He had to work that night and I would have to go to the move BY MYSELF!  I had been so looking forward to  not only seeing the movie, but seeing it with my Dad.  He was the only person who ‘got’ my love of all things Trek.  My step mother hated it, so she wasn’t going to go.  Which, I suppose, was OK, though I would have been excited to go with her.  My Dad gave me some money for the movie, popcorn and a soda, ten bucks, I think.

Oh man, was I hurt. When he told he had seen it, though, that was the worst.  I felt betrayed. Betrayed by my Dad.  I could not believe he would do that. To ME!

The rest of the drive to Fredericksburg was quiet. My poor step mother tried to make conversation, but I was having nothing to do with it.  Brooding, moping, whatever.

We got to my Dad’s house and I took my bags in, got some water and then she took me to the Four Mile Fork Theater-which is a car dealership now, I think. She dropped me and said she would be back in two and a half hours. I thanked her and, cautiously went in the theater and got my ticket.

This was also the first time I had gone to a movie by myself.  Now, I was not only upset about my Dad, but was a bit anxious to be there alone.

I got my popcorn and soda and sat down. Mid way up the theater and in the middle. I wanted optimal viewing and sound. The movie, supposedly, had this awesome soundtrack.  It did.

When the lights went down, and the curtains opened, I stopped being mad. I stopped feeling alone.  I started to feel that sense of excitement and wonder well up again. The feeling I had had for a long time.  After the previews were done (no ads back then, just a couple of preview and then…) that Paramount logo popped up. The crowd went nuts.  I remember that long intro music and, then, that first scene.  You could have kicked me between my legs and I would not have noticed.  For the next two-plus hours, I was enthralled.  Man, Admiral Kirk sure seemed nervous and that twit Decker…who the hell was this guy anyway? It took me awhile to connect him with the Doomsday Device Commodore Decker.  Oh, and the bald chick? Yeah, being a teenager, well, lets just say I REALLY dug her. Oddly enough, though, Mr. Spock made me hate him at first.  It wasn’t until V’Ger injured him that I started to like him again. He was more of an arrogant ass than normal. And, the others, they were just there, I didn’t give a crap about them.

When then end finished, I was pumped and disappointed, at the same time.  Pumped over the movie being so big in scale and, yet, not very fulfilling. Disappointed because I didn’t get share it with my Dad.

I don’t know why he chose not to see it with me, we saw the next two together. We saw the Star Wars movies together.  I never asked him why.  I had gone to bed not long after the movie.  I didn’t want to see him that night.  I talked his ear off the next day about the movie, but, that night, I didn’t want to have anything to do with him.

He never said he was sorry, or even mentioned it again.

I finally stopped being mad about it. And it seems so petty today, but, when I was 14, it was a pretty big deal to me.  An experience I wanted to share, with person I looked up to the most.  Something we both shared a love for, yet, he chose to work instead.  This is something I swore I would never do if I ever had children. And, for the most part, I have put my kids ahead of my job. There have been a few times where I absolutely had to work and either miss or be late for something, but that has been rare. And, sometimes, I catch myself putting myself ahead of them.  I try, very hard, to not do that, but, I too, fail. One of the things I never thought about, until I had children of my own, was why he chose to work.  It is very possible that it was one of those ‘absolute’ moments I spoke about. I am going to go with that.

The father-son dynamic is very important.  Fathers should experience all the ‘firsts’ they can, with their sons. (Ok, daughters too.) They are moments you will NEVER get a chance to relive.  Even with multiple children, what one may value, another may not give a crap about.

I still wish we could have seen the movie together though.  Maybe I’m not completely over that.

Elmo, Mandy Patinkin and feeling scared: taking my son to his first movie

I still remember the first movie I took my oldest son to see, Elmo in Grouchland. Now, this was back when Elmo was still a big thing and going to the movies didn’t cost two arms and legs.  Chase was probably three when we went to the movie. He was very excited and, frankly, so was I. Not see the movie, but to take him to his first movie. 

I put him in his safety seat in the back of my car and we proceed to the theater. This particular theater was about ten miles from my home, not a huge distance, but it was going to take a few minutes to get there. I knew Chase was excited as he talked incessantly.  That was fine, I loved listening to him talk. His sweet voice was cute and his use of words just astonished me, after all, he WAS only three.

As we pull into the parking lot, he sees how big the building was and he got worried.

“Daddy, what if I woose you?”

“Don’t worry, Chase, you aren’t going to lose me.”

We go in and I purchase the tickets and get us some snacks. At that point in his life, Chase did not like candy. I know, I never understood, but was glad he did not. No, instead, he wanted a hot dog and juice.  I got it for him and for myself, a small popcorn and soda.  We go to our seats and, then…

…the lights went down. Well, that scared the crap out of Chase. So much that he nearly threw his hot dog!  I reassured him that all was well and that the movie was about to start. But, before I could warn him that the picture was going to be big…

the damned music started and the previews came on screen.

He was almost in tears. 

I calmed him down, let him know it was normal and that the picture was supposed to be that big. He grew to like it.

After several previews, the movie started.

He finished the hot dog and sucked down the juice.  Laughing and giggling, he seemed to really like the movie.

And, then…IT happened.

Nothing prepared me for this. NOTHING.  It was just awful.  And, for  a three year old, I can see why he reacted the way did.  This was so bad, we had to leave the movie.

We were only about 45 minutes into the film.

So, what happened? What was so awful? What scared him so bad?

MANDY PATINKIN.

Yep.  The actor. He played the villain in the film and he looked pretty damned scary.  His makeup was so good, Chase could not look at him.  Nothing I said could convince him that it just a picture on the screen and not real. Nope, nothing.

So, we left.

I managed to get him calm and took him for ice cream and then we went home. 

Later that evening, he walks into my office at home and climbs up on my lap.  Gives me a big hug and proceeds to let me know that, even though he got really scared, he still had fun with me. He gave me a big hug.

At that moment, I knew this Dad thing was going be awesome.  The love and utter contentment I felt, at that moment, made everything else secondary. He was the center of my world.  Making him feel that way, even as scared as he was, that he could still feel safe and have fun, well, that’s what it is all about. 

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