Vader in German means father. His name is literally Darth Father.
—Keep thinking of this Pitch Perfect quote as we drive along, for some reason. Sniggering quietly to myself.
Between me entering the shop and leaving three minutes later, the sky has bloomed from a dark bruise to the blow-to-the-head glow of a computer screen, and the rain is thick. The few people visible are clotted in shop doorways, staring up at the sky like peasants in an illuminated manuscript. I am alone on the pavements, John Wayne in a ghost town of pedestrianised shopping streets, feet sliding in his flip flops, plastic bag of M&S soup and Nice biscuits hanging from his curled fingers. All he’s thinking about is how quickly he can get back to the saloon, and whether his Amazon order of comic books might arrive there today.
Me: Do you want me to make you some scrambled eggs and smoked salmon again?
Cancer Dad: No… I’ll make… myself… some poached eggs.
Me and my mother: BWWWAHAAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAH
Cancer Dad: [indignant] I’m… serious.
[My mother making him poached eggs while he slowly zimmers to the table.]
For the record, my scrambled eggs are astoundingly good.
It’s been such a class-A shitfuck of a day today, please just imagine me biting my lip so hard to keep from Saying The Things About The People that blood is gushing from between my gnashing jaws.
And with that magical image in place, come closer to me around the fire, sweet children, and let me tell you about my regrets. I’ve been thinking about this all recently anyway, while I was astride my poor, worn out, but never-to-be-spared hobby horse of Constant Feminism and occasionally switching to its tiny mule sidekick, Jesus But I Wish I’d Had Any Kind Of Feminist Education As A Young Woman At All, after a particularly dire piece in the Guardian the other week about Feminist Weddings (I’m not linking).
I’ve tried to be nice about it, but if you’ve changed your name on marriage, I think less of you. And I always will. I know that’s my problem, not yours, but there it is. This fantastic piece about a woman giving her child her surname, not her partner’s, made me delighted again that I’d kept mine after the wedding (Why doesn’t everyone? I just don’t get that. Can someone please explain it to me in slow, simple English so even I can understand why you would *change your name* to this guy’s? *waggles thumb at some dude over my shoulder*) but disappointed I’d not given more thought to the kids having mine as a surname. It took three weeks after getting the birth certificate for us to go back and request M to have my name even as a middle name, a naming pattern we’ve continued with the other two, but why just a middle name? Why would I do that? And so my mind travels back to our wedding: Why at our wedding would I not do a speech (although at least my bridesmaid did)? Why would my *dad* do a speech, but not my mother? Why would our tables all be named after Great Men in comedy, literature, exploration and more? I JUST CAN’T EVEN *claws face off, marries the four winds*
Anyway, I’m furious tonight, and this appears to be my punching bag. Bon soir, mes amis.
As this bug continues, I’m still sofa-bound and forced to watch all the films I’ve had taped for millennia (tiny violins play). Today’s: Beginners. I loved it so much more than I thought I would (CAVEAT: I still think Vanilla Sky is an excellent film and EVERYONE ELSE IS WRONG), considering I usually find Ew-Mac pretty much unwatchable, but he’s good, Melanie Laurent manages to avoid MPDG, and Christopher Plummer (who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this role) is just fantastic. Achingly so.
Was it the right film for me to watch today? Maybe not. This is Ewan MacGregor’s character (Oliver Fields) with his father in the kitchen at a party, shortly after the father (Plummer, as Hal Fields) has been told he’s terminal.
OF in VO: He started telling everyone he was getting better.
OF: Why are you telling them you’re turning the corner?
HF: Oh, well…
OF: You have *stage 4* cancer.
HF: [sighs] It’s not as bad as it sounds.
OF: Pop. There is no stage 5.
HF: [chuckles] That’s not what it means!
OF: Well then what does it mean?
HF: It just means that it’s been through three other stages.
Yup. We well know that game. And later on, when Plummer is completely discharged from hospital care, referred instead to hospice care - we had that treat the other day. The final goodbye from the oncologist we liked so much. The hospital bed brought in. The rounds of medicine lined up by my mother in pill boxes ordered specially.
I know Hollywood illnesses are nothing to base a life on, but so much here echoes. But it was the stuff which doesn’t echo which makes me the most sad. Oliver Fields says of his father, ‘For the first time, I saw him really in love.’ Hal Fields’s final years, after he finally comes out in his seventies, are filled with activism, passion, singing, movie nights, parties, food, and love. Now, I’m not saying someone with three types of cancer plus a galloping case of PSP has any responsibility to show us what a whale of a time he’s having, but my god. If you don’t count contentment with sitting in an armchair reading the Daily Mail, I don’t remember the last time I ever thought my father was happy.