Wednesday, October 26, 2011
My 'Life as a House'
In 2001, Kevin Kline starred in a movie about George, a divorced father in the final stages of his losing battle with cancer, trying to reconnect with his estranged 16-year-old son, while also rebuilding the broken pieces of his own past by tearing down the dilapidated house left to him by his abusive father, and building a new one in its place. If you haven't seen this amazing movie its worth a watch - mainly for the poignant final words spoken in the film as it fades to black.
The thrust of the tome serves as a window into the core of our struggle as humans - we're all doing our best with what we've been given, despite often appearing to be doing much less in the eyes of those who love and need us the most.
When George demands that his son join him for the summer to help finish building the house, he is met with huge resistance. George's son spends most of the summer trying to get out of the sun-up to sun-down work his father asks of him. By the end of the film, however, George reveals he is battling cancer and he needs his son to finish the house he won't be able to complete on his own. His son, struck by opposing feelings of rage, concern, and needful love, releases his final anger towards his father and becomes the caretaker his father could never be. The two reunite in a final effort to end the cycle of misunderstanding, rage, and abuse, and George's son comes to love his father in a way George's father never earned.
For me the film was the catalyst for my improved relationship with my dad; I was able to see my father as George, the tormented workaholic who was harder on himself than any member of his family, and as a result nearly lost everyone close to him because of his behavior. But my dad, like George, is really a good guy - talented and smart, funny and loving. It was his circumstances (demanding job, impossible home life growing up, demons of his own past behavior haunting him constantly) that kept him from enjoying a life free from the scorn of others he may have hurt. I came to know my father as a person, not an unreachable entity, and I realized that he - like all of us - is doing his best with what he was given to make it in this world.
He's a good man and a really good grandfather, and I'm so happy to have him in my life and in the lives of my children.
For my own story, I was determined to tear away the rotting wood, weak foundations, and leaky plumbing in my 'house' before it became an expensive tear-down. Part of that personal remodel for me was the understanding that while doing my best I am going to stumble, make mistakes with my children and wife, and not always be perfect... and that's okay. I'm doing my best with what I've been given, while seeking wisdom and growth - and that's enough.
What parts of your house need remodeling? Is your foundation strong enough to take on some renovations? Who will benefit from the new you? Wouldn't it be wonderful if at the end of your movie, when your house is complete, you've left a warm hearth in which your loved ones can find comfort?
Be your best!