Saturday, August 17, 2013
A dog story
We flipped the switch on the digital babysitter for as good a reason as there is--diversion. The little guy had to get to sleep on foreign ground--his grandma's house--and his siblings needed to stay the heck out of the way of what would be an elaborate ritual. So the three of us wandered off into the back room, and I hit the switch and turned to Netflix.
What I knew would happen, did. The two of them--a boy, a girl--one just now way up on middle school, the other in elementary--couldn't have agreed on WHICH movie we'd watch had we sat there until a week from Thursday, and, truth be told, I didn't care much for something inane, a genre offers tons of options--something spectacularly silly like Transformers, or almost anything starring hip kids who are 12.
We flicked through options until I stopped at something titled Hachiko: A Dog's Story--Richard Gere. Never heard of it, but it looked real and you can't go wrong with a dog story, saith Grandpa, whose own first show, a thousand years ago, was Old Yeller.
Starts out with a lost dog Gere picks up at a railroad station he frequents daily. He takes this pup home being mightily surreptitious because he knows darn well his wife isn't game for a dog. What she is is game for her husband--she's sweetly decked out for some pre-planned marital bliss, and I'm wondering what on earth I did choosing this one. I mean, what I thought about when I was their age wasn't just lollypops. You know. They're pups, but at their ages they're not all that innocent.
Anyway, this pup ruins the marital bliss, but in a matter of a few cinematic minutes, warms Mom's heart, and thereby avoids death by injection at the pound. It's not harrowing. I'm being overdramatic.
Hachiko is, in fact, a dog's story, a story of faithfulness that's very, very sweet, and if wouldn't be for the tagline at the end of the movie, nigh unto unbelievable.
The bottom line is, Grandpa scored. I honestly think they loved the movie, both of them, and I thought myself worthy of some Grandparenting congressional medal for having sidestepped screen lunacy rather deftly.
Spoiler alert, sort of. There's a death in Hachiko. Sorry. I didn't figure on someone dying, but I should have--I've never forgotten Old Yeller, after all. Death is not the climax, but it's there, and it's costly in an emotional sense, as most deaths are. If you're wondering, it's not the dog.
There may have been tears, but it was dark in the room, and I had two kids tucked in on either side of me, both blanket-wrapped. Think sweet.
Anyway, it's the aftermath that was dispelling. The boy, who's going to be a fifth-grader, climbs up the steps to the bedroom, where I'm sleeping alone--they're far more comfortable downstairs, lights on, and Grandma tonight is sleeping with the tot, or trying to. Suddenly, he appears.
"I'm scared of Grandma B dying," he says, snuffing just a bit, nothing outlandish.
It's my fault, of course, showing a show where a good man dies.
Anyway, there he stood, so the two of us had a talk about dying, about death, about life, about being faithful, and about how Grandma B was going to be much-o happier once she was "with Jesus" and out of the body that had just plain worn out.
Don't know how some child psychologist would have graded this Grandpa's performance, but I did my best, and, the proof was in the pudding: he went back downstairs where the light was on, and he fell sleep.
I blamed myself. Sheesh. Had we watched something with a mechanical monster shouldering weapons of destruction, he wouldn't have been reminded of his ailing great-grandma, there would have been no tears, and he'd have chugged off harmlessly.
But upstairs, alone, the house finally quiet beneath me, I determined on this one I really didn't need to ask forgiveness. Sure he's fifth grade, sure he's just a kid, and sure a little earlier that night I'd seen him and his friends having a spitting contest--but, dang it, it doesn't hurt for someone his age to think through things that make eyes tear up and not shut down.
As long as he doesn't obsess, right? As long as he slips off into the sleep, like I must have, once upon time, with Old Yeller lingering even though he met his end so sadly in the movie.
I felt good, dang it. There's something to be said for a real story. I think me and Richard Gere--we did okay.
As far as I could tell, the house was quiet. What more can a grandpa ask?
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 8:27 AM