(While I generally try to maintain a light and humorous tone on this blog, occasionally I write things of a more serious tenor. This is one of those times.)
The last time I saw my father alive, he recommended a movie to me.
My parents had moved to California a few weeks prior, and he and I were driving a U-Haul truck filled with the last of their worldly goods from Portland, Oregon to Fremont, California. For a man who had lived in Oregon over half a century, this was a difficult transition – and this trip was his farewell ride through the land of his birth.
Driving a large, unwieldy truck for twelve hours straight is a rather tedious process, so we passed the time by discussing pop culture. Despite his age, my father read Cracked & Something Awful fairly religiously (despite some of the articles going over his head), and he counted Johnny Cash, Beck, and Tom Waits amongst some of his favorite artists. We frequently traded movie recommendations, as well – I’d recommend things I’d seen in the theater (that I didn’t think would scandalize my mother), and occasionally he’d respond with things he’d discovered on Netflix.
On this particular drive, I played an anthology of cover songs and made him guess which version came first (“Which is the original, pops? Iron & Wine’s version of ‘Such Great Heights’ or Postal Services’?”) and he responded with a handful of movie suggestions – although there was one in particular that he recommended with great vigor. He had just seen a Japanese film called “Departures”, about a young, unemployed cello player who accidentally finds work as an undertaker and struggles to come to grips with his feelings about his long-absent father. He praised it as being moving, funny, and engrossing, and I dutifully made a mental note to watch it, at some point.
The next day, I was scheduled to fly home on a Bombardier Q400 out of Oakland International Airport. As I mentioned in my last post, the Q400 is my preferred plane for jetsetting these days, but back then, I had never flown a turboprop before, and I was quite taken with the novelty of it all.
As he was dropping me off at the airport, my dad made his recommendation one more time. “Departures! Remember it – it’s really good.”
We said goodbye, and I headed off to my flight. Six weeks later – exactly two years ago today – he was gone.
In the last two years, in the aftermath of my father’s passing, I’ve made about 20 flights on those damn Q400s. I’ve learned to live with grief as best I know how. All those things that were once new and unknown to me are now so very, very familiar. I don’t know if I’ve handled my father’s passing well, or not. I’d like to hope that I have. And I’d like to think that he’d be amused by PretentiousPDX.
But I know there’s one thing that I haven’t done – one final admonition of his that I haven’t heeded.
About six months ago, I ordered Departures on Netflix. It arrived a few days later, but I couldn’t bring myself to watch it. It’s been in sitting by my television ever since, gathering a fine patina of dust on that little white envelope.
Tonight, two years later, I’m going to pour myself a glass of scotch from the bottle of Johnnie Walker Black I purchased the day he died. I’m going to put that DVD in the player and sit down on the couch.
And then I’m going to press play.
Rest in peace, dad.
“One grown cold, restored to beauty for all eternity… everything done peacefully, everything done beautifully.”