Friday, June 9, 2017

Expiration Dates on Parents

Every parent has an expiration date. (Well, I mean beyond the obvious). Of course I'm talking about the proper time to stop taking a parent to the cinema.
But it's true. Ask around. I imagine you'll find a bountiful bevy of bad behavior tales at the local multi-plex. When I tell my friends of my experiences, they have stories of likewise woes.

I dunno how it happens. I mean, when my parents took me to movies, they didn't display the same bad behavior that they later did.

Hang on. I suppose that's not entirely true. I kinda think my mom's expiration date happened long ago. In her defense, my dad's pick of "good wholesome, family viewing" probably didn't help matters.

Ye gads. 

I got my first glimpse of female nudity while watching "Billy Jack." I learned how to curse from Burt Reynolds and Sheriff Joe Don Baker, the man who walked tall and sweat oceans. Gratuitous violence became entertaining (and likewise, forbidden) during "The Getaway." I grew incredibly bored with "Doctor Zhivago," trekking through those endless snowy roads, back and forth. (But we'll disregard this last movie 'cause it doesn't really fit in anywhere with my Mission Statement. Fair disclosure: I never said I was a journalist).

Anyway, Mom at the movies... As a strict, uptight, proper Baptist, she'd sit through these films--tight and white lipped--and exclaim  "Huh's!" and "Mercy's!" during the running time. So embarrassed (we went to the cheap, neighborhood theater where many school mates hung out), I'd slink down into my seat and wanted to skate away on a floor of sticky, spilled soda.

Besides the fact I never understood why Mom kept going to (or Dad kept picking) these movies, I found Mom's behavior mortifying and unlike her at-home viewing demeanor. When I was even younger, I spent many late weekend nights watching (pseudo) spooky classics like "The Birds" and "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" with Mom. She didn't utter disgust once during the films, not that I can remember. I imagine because the TV viewings were censored.

Anyway, Mom's expiration date at the movies passed many years ago.

("Doctor Zhivago" side note: For what seemed like months, Mom would walk around the house, directing an imaginary chorus with an invisible baton, bird warbling that damn Doctor Zhivago theme song. I suspect she chose to overlook the entire adultery angle of the flick.) 

Dad was another story. Again, he fostered an early love for the movies in me and was always glad to take me. After a while, it whittled down to just the two of us (as my brothers had no real interest in cinema). In those days, Dad always remained on his best behavior, respecting the proper protocol of cinema viewing.

Until the fateful day of "Dick Tracy," a day that lived on in infamy. (To anyone who was in the audience those many years ago, I apologize, I apologize, I apologize...)

But, I thought, "Why not? It's no western, but Dick Tracy's got old cars, old music, old stars...Dad should have a blast." So I took him to a sold-out, jammed pack screening.

BIG mistake.

Again, I don't know what happened. Why Dad changed. Or when "The Change" took place. But it happened that very night. Throwing away every manner he'd ever learned through sixty or so years of cinema-going, Dad apparently thought he was ringside at a rasslin' match.

He hooted and hollered. He kept up a running dialogue at the top of his lungs, one full of really weird and annoying statements:

"Looks like ol' Dickie-Boy's in a tight spot now!"

"Dickie-Boy won't stand still for that!"

And my personal favorite: "Dickie-Boy's sure got a way with the ladies, huh, Stu?"

I don't know where "Dickie Boy" came from, but during Dad's constant narrative, he came off like a crazed Disney nature narrator ("Here comes a frisky little fellow.")

I just turtled into my shirt, sunk lower, couldn't wait to bolt out of there. Felt like I should take the stage and make a public apology.

I loved my dad. But it was the last time I took him to see a film. 

What happened? Why the change? Is it something that's mandated, along with failing health, once you get older?

It simply makes no sense.

On that day, I vowed to not repeat the mistakes of the past while going to the movies with my daughter. But...if this is just part of the Circle of Life, who am I to ignore nature? 

I better start practicing now...

"Hey! Hey! Is that a Wookie or a walking carpet?"

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