My husband and I went to see our first movie this week since our life as we knew it came to a screeching halt 27 months ago. The movie we selected seemed lighthearted enough and Robert De Niro, one of our favorite actors, had the leading role. We decided upon an early afternoon matinée in a theatre which did not hold memories of Amy and much to my relief there were only 6 other people at this showing. Did they lose a child too?
Maybe because I am not accustomed to a relaxing position, my body felt weird as we settled into our seats. Lights dimmed, snacks ready, set, go. Sadly, who knew many of the previews for the upcoming movies would trigger grief ambushes which had me crying off/on before the feature film even began. Suddenly the pretzel bites lost their appeal while the m&ms never left the pocket of my vest.
Robert De Niro twists at my heart in the way he portrays a senior in life. He leans into the role which I find so appealing and real. Suddenly, another movie he was featured in back in 2010 came to mind. Everyone Is Fine. At that time, everyone was relatively fine in my life. Oh, and of course there is an Amy in this movie which did not tug at my heart then the way it does now.
In that movie, Frank Goode (Robert De Niro), a recently widowed retiree, is getting ready for his children, David (Austin Lysy), Rosie (Drew Barrymore), Amy (Kate Beckinsale) and Robert (Sam Rockwell) to come visit him. One by one though, each of his children call to cancel on him at the last minute. Feeling a bit down by the rejections, Frank decides to head out on a cross-country trip, visiting each of his kids, despite warnings against travel from his doctor. He is chronically ill with cardiac and respiratory problems from his life work making PVC-covered power lines. He deceives his children about his health, telling them that he is fine.
As Frank travels to each of his children’s homes, beginning with his son David who is absent from his New York apartment, his other son and daughters divert his surprise visits and make excuses for not allowing him a lengthy visit. He begins to suspect that something is amiss.
Frank heads home to Elmira, New York, by plane and suffers a heart attack. The heart attack renders him in a dream-like state where he reflects on his visits to his children. While reflecting upon his visits, Frank realizes that each of his children is hiding a secret: Amy’s husband is leaving her for another woman and Amy has found a new boyfriend; Robert is not a musical conductor nor is he going on tour to Europe; Rosie has mothered a child and is bisexual; David has gone missing. He awakes to find his children at the hospital to comfort him. His children finally tell him the big secret that David has died of a drug overdose. Upon his release from the hospital, Frank visits his wife’s grave and talks to her. He tells her all about the kids and how they’re all doing fine. The final scene depicts Frank as he loves and accepts his children (including their secrets).
Everyone is fine. Is that what everyone is waiting to hear from me? Define “fine.” In reality who truly is fine? Could the state of “fine” ever again be a possibility at some point in my life? Just like so many questions I have had along this nightmare, I do not have the answer to that question. I know I am not fine now if it takes me 27 months to believe I am capable of going to the movies. I realize I am not fine when I get annoyed when others ask me if I have been enjoying the beautiful November weather or if I had a “good” weekend.
Yet time has indeed taught me that there is no malice intended in these small talk topics people toss around. That may be progress on my part but the progress it takes to convincingly answer “fine” to most questions is hidden inside of horrible pain. And I cannot help but feel a responsibility to answer honestly sometimes because otherwise we set an unrealistic bar for those around us who deal with tragedies.
Yesterday as I spent the unseasonably warm afternoon outside preparing one of my gardens for winter, I noticed how my jasmine vine had taken over and strangled my lilac, azalea and rose bushes. As I began to cut and free the potential for those beautiful flowers to bloom again after being separated from the vines, the jasmine vines became my grief which is strangling and overshadowing my life. It took me 27 months to notice what was happening in one of my gardens. Over time maybe I will be able to free myself from the grief vines which are strangling some of the beauty in my life that I am now oblivious to witnessing. I could not complete the task of freeing all of my flowers and while I noticed their roots were strong and intact, I have no idea if they will come back in the spring. The nurturing mother in me also wondered what the severing of the vines may have done to that over zealous jasmine bush which started as a small starter plant I had ordered from North Carolina. Time will tell. You can’t rush the seasons anymore than you can rush my long season of grief so I will just have to wait and see and keep on plugging along.
Our roots remain, but my family tree is not only tangled up in various vines but was also hit by a category 5 hurricane. As the holidays approach, our roots will once again be tested. Everyone is not fine — not now anyway.
Always remembering Amy.