My dad listened to jazz, but he wasn’t an intellectual. He played sports, but he wasn’t a jock. He worked in sales, but he wasn’t an asshole.
Precisely because he wasn’t a jock, he accepted that I didn’t like sports. Even if he wasn’t an intellectual, he understood my love of learning. And, luckily, he wasn’t an asshole, so he didn’t hate me for being gay.
But he was a normal bloke who wanted normal things. He didn’t necessarily want normal things for me, but he most certainly wanted me to be normal for him. While my homosexuality was not a surprise for anyone, it was a barrier that prevented us from being as close as both of us would have liked. Don’t get me wrong, my father and I enjoyed a good relationship, but it would have been better had my first crush not been on Brad Pitt.
Enter film. What dad loved nearly as much as jazz and matches with the lads were movies and me. I took this lifeline he cast out and tied it fast between us so that we might be bound by this common interest. While I remember seeing Schindler’s List, Groundhog Day, and The Nightmare Before Christmas in the cinema the year I turned 10, what I remember most is evenings beside him in the living room watching video cassettes with Nesquik and Butterkist microwave popcorn. We spent my tweens devouring every John Hughes movie ever made, but also films like All That Jazz, Excalibur, and Apocalypse Now.
Those nights sitting side by side on the sofa were a way for my father and I to forget for a while. For him, it was to forget I wasn’t the son he had expected me to be; and for me, it was to forget he wasn’t the dad I needed. In addition to watching films, it seemed forgetting was another activity we could do together.
Films changed my life by teaching me how to forget. Even now that age has smoothed the rough edges of my dad’s disregard, I go to see a different film every day in the cinema because, as I sit rapt in the front row before a film good or bad, I tune out my internal dialogue, ignore my responsibilities, and forget myself for as long as the movie will have me.