Last night one of my go to movies was on television. “Real Genius” was playing for the 1000th time and I was so excited to see it come up on the guide that I was almost mistaken for a 6 year old on Christmas morning. It is a dumb movie from 1985, I was 13 when it came out. A story about college kids, doing college things, and trying to outsmart a devious professor. The soundtrack was a collection of the times and so were the clothes. Susie had no idea why I was interested in this movie I could have downloaded at any point in time. I had brought a copy of Brian’s Song with me to Boston, why not this if it meant so much.
Explaining to a 13 year old, who I barely know, that for me it triggered memories of a time before I understood the hard times being an adult brought was difficult. She and I had been talking some about her aunt, surreal memories of being 15 years old again. But sitting next to me on the couch was a girl who until last week was a set of pictures and some emails from her grandmother. I’m still trying to understand what my place is in her life and what place she will have in mine.
Susie’s aunt holds a very special place in my heart, one that can’t be fully explained without a long, and for me, painful story. So I see a little bit of her in her niece as we are sitting there talking. And I can’t help but loosen the reigns on my better judgement because of that. But this 13 year old, barely a teenager, has been sitting there while I deal with some tough medical decisions, so she gets a wide latitude to pick my brain.
As the movie was getting ready, in slides Susie in her pajamas. I didn’t notice until later that she had turned her phone off so that we wouldn’t be disturbed by whatever teenage craziness was happening outside of these four walls. Kathy had little interest in watching the movie, I think she just wanted to give us time to get to know each other better!
The movie starts off simply enough, 80’s music from Tears for Fears and maybe some Oingo Boingo [Danny Elfman before he went to writing some amazing movie soundtracks]. We make fun of the way people are dressed, I prmise to show some pictures of me at that time, probably dressed much the same. Val Kilmer doing what he does best, goofy smirks and funny lines. Then she turns and asks me to pause it, I figured she needed to make her own run for the little girl’s room but didn’t know what to say.
A couple minutes pass and she walks in with a tray. Two cups of tea and a couple of cookies, my medication all lined up and ready to go. I had lost track of the exact time, but she hadn’t. “Gram told me to make sure you took this. She knew you would wait until we were done so that I wasn’t uncomfortable.”
Damn, when did she become the adult? She asked if it hurt when I took the pills, and I told her there was a little burn in my stomach but nothing big. Susie put the cookie in my hand and said that I needed to eat something to help. Again, something Kathy must have told her. But when we were all set to resume the movie, Susie did something unexpected. She rested her head on my shoulder. She asked first and I was so taken back that I didn’t stop her. She sat there with her blanket, me with mine and we watched the rest of the movie in silence broken up by the occasional laugh.
For that 40 minutes I was more captivated by this amazing kid than anything else. The movie was something in the background of my mind while I felt this wave of protection come over me. Something I haven’t felt in a long time. I didn’t have to beg someone for help, praying that I would be more important than her mother. [okay a small shot at the ex!]. Just this simple gesture almost broke down the wall I keep up. Kathy heard about it at breakfast and I couldn’t stop myself from tearing up, especially when I learned that Susie was just supposed to remind me to take the meds. The rest was all her idea!
Susie’s heard stories about me being a tough guy to handle. Kathy loves me like a son, but she also knows I can be extremely difficult at times. We joked after watching “The Blacklist” finale that the character played by James Spader and I had something in common, we were both ‘sin-eaters’. I do the hard lifting, the nasty stuff so that others don’t have to understand what it takes, don’t have to feel that guilt. It’s what allowed me to be told I was to blame for everything and just accept it and move on. But I promise you, it hurt. Still does, but that was what people expect of me. Emotionless Lary.
But Susie didn’t care about any of that. During that time, sitting on the couch I remembered every dream I had about being a father. Only this time it didn’t hurt as much. Maybe because I was so caught up in the moment, I focused on her rather than any other thought.
Those forty minutes are etched in my mind, in a place that I will never be able to forget. It wasn’t possible to linger in the moment, but my mind can. Part of me wants to put another movie in the Bluray and hope for the same reaction, but you can’t capture lightening on a bottle twice. So my mind will linger a bit longer.
Susie will have to go back to her parent’s place after the weekend, they’ve been travelling for work. And it is getting to be time for me to return to Maryland and face life there. But I plan on teaching her to make something on Saturday, a cookie recipe passed down in my family. It’s nothing odd, just a twist on a classic. Sorry can’t share, but they are good!
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Linger.”