When my father was 83 he moved from Long Island, New York to Portland, Maine. He moved to Portland because he was recovering from cancer and needed to be closer to me and my sister. I have an apartment in my house so it made the most sense for Dad to move in with me.
Having my father live in my house was definitely more work for me because I shopped for his groceries and often cooked him dinner. I didn’t mind the cooking because I was cooking for my family anyway but the shopping was sometimes a challenge. It took me forever to find the right kind of Pepsi–gold label, no caffeine, full sugar–and half the time they didn’t have it in stock anyway. I think my father was the only person who wanted all of the sugar and none of the caffeine in his soda. Though it was a bit more work to have my dad with me, it was also much more fun because is was as if a friend had moved into my house. One of the things we did to help my father stay occupied was to set up a Netflix subscription for him. At first I managed his queue and picked all his movies for him since I had a computer and he didn’t but then he started complaining about my choices. He said my movies were “too sappy” or “too boring”. My sister Tricia solved the problem by buying Dad a Siskel and Ebert movie rental guide and he began picking his own. I thought that was the answer to his movie dissatisfaction but it was really just the beginning of my mine!
It was a weeknight and Francis, my five year old son, went to bed early. I called downstairs to Dad and asked if he had any Netflix movies he wanted to watch together. Between my full-time teaching job and my busy family life I didn’t have as much time as I wanted to just hang out with my dad so we were both excited for an impromptu midweek movie night. I filled a bowl with green grapes, said good night to my husband Michael and headed downstairs. I poured Dad a big cup of his favorite Pepsi, grabbed us a handful of KitKats from his secret stash and snuggled under the blue fleece blanket on the couch in his living room. He popped in the DVD and settled into his comfy chair.
The DVD sprang to life and after the previews and rating came and went, the title flashed in big red letters across the screen. It said, “CANDY MAN”. I thought, “Oh good! Maybe this movie is like Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory!” I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was a horror movie, which is one genre of movie I NEVER watch. I get nightmares just seeing the cover of a scary movie. Candy Man was a about an apartment building haunted by a killer and a woman who wanted to find out more about the death that occurred there. I kept glancing at my dad, sure he was as horrified as I was about what this movie turned out to be. Strangely enough, he looked totally engrossed in the movie! The more stupid the movie became, the more interested my father seemed. “How could this be?” I wondered. MY father, enjoying this low-budget horror movie? MY father, the man who read the New Yorker and the New York Times religiously? The man who creamed me at Jeopardy every night? The man who never went to college but knew more from 84 years of serious reading than I could ever hope to learn in my lifetime? Yup, that man was enjoying a movie I think your average teenage boy would find ridiculous.
Despite the fact that the movie creeped me out and I was sure I would have nightmares, I smiled as I walked upstairs to my own apartment when the movie ended. I decided maybe I didn’t know my father as well as I thought I did, but I was so grateful for the chance to keep learning more about this man who was not only my father, but one of the greatest friends I’ve ever had.