Star Wars Will Always Be Bittersweet To Me

randomlychad  —  March 8, 2012 — 12 Comments

1977:

As an eight year-old boy, seeing Star Wars on the big screen was a seminal moment for me. Not only was it an awesome spectacle–the likes of which I’d never seen–but it also was quite literally “a new hope.” You see, my family was in a time of transition–a place of in-between–we were preparing to strike out on an adventure: we were moving from the lush greenery of Pennsylvania to the desert of Arizona.

Which, to me, may just as well have been Tattooine.

The reality, of course, was far less verdant than my young boy’s imagination: there was still school, chores, and a bothersome little brother. Truth be told, Arizona–despite it’s arid similarities too Tattooine–was not where Luke Skywalker lived. And truly it was quite hot enough for this Pennsylvania kid with its one sun, thank-you very much.

I suppose the move, though perhaps I couldn’t have expressed it in words at the time, was the first occasion upon which I was aware of reality failing to live up to my expectations. Hope had taken on the proportions of hype in my naive mind, and what actually was was a bummer.

My family was still my family–despite the change of scenery.

You know what they say about hope, right? That “hope springs eternal.” Well, we’ll see…
————-

1983:

Now longer eight, I’m nearly fourteen. Older, yes, but wiser is debatable. Worldly-wise, certainly. At least insofar as my own familys’ dynamics are concerned. I’m aware of things. The six-years-earlier promise of “a new hope” had given way to burgeoning rift growing in-between us. I hadn’t the skills to combat the indifference. But like Holden Caulfield, I had the first glowing embers of a heretofore unknown anger to warm me at night.

In many ways, I suppose I was right.

At some point, my dad moved out–giving my anger a focus (fair, or not, the fracturing rift was his fault)–and for several months he wove in and out of mine, and my brother’s, lives. Yet, around the time of Return of the Jedi’s release, he called, indicating he wanted to take us to see it.

Jaded, guarded, as I was at that point, I’m not sure what I thought, but I’m almost certain that the glowing embers of hot hatred gave way that day to hope. Never did dad do anything with us boys anymore, and here he was taking us to the movies.

Hope, as they say, springs eternal. He cared, he was interested, he perhaps wanted to come home. He loved me.

Listen: I had read the James M. Kahn novelization, I knew how this story ended: the rebels won, the evil emperor perished, and the father was saved by the son.

Even knowing what I did, having the story “spoiled” because I couldn’t wait to know, I sat in rapturous awe as the story unfolded on the screen. I was that little boy of eight again, and the world as bright as Tattooine.

We sat–we three–my dad, my brother, and me, after the movie. We sat, I thought, to talk about what we’d seen. For is that not the greatest power of story? The shared experience? Of entering into something together, and being transformed?

But it was not to be.

Far from being more involved in our lives, this taking us to the cinema was more like a kiss goodbye.

From rebel triumph, and redemption, I was snapped back to reality: my parents were divorcing, and there was nothing I could do.

Hope, for me, in many ways died that day. Its last gasp went down in the flame of his words. In a moment’s time, my dad went from someone I longed to see to a man I had to see (twice yearly)–because that’s what it stipulated in the decree.

————–

In the ensuing years, despite finding hope again in Jesus Christ, I wish I had happier news to report; that like Luke Skywalker, the son has “saved” the father. Alas, it’s not to be. At least my dad won’t hear it from me (not because I’m not willing, mind you). I think hoped died in his heart a long time ago…

This is why Star Wars will always be bittersweet to me.

How about you? Do you have any Star Wars memories? Any family stories like mine?

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randomlychad

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Christ-follower, husband, dad, blogger, reader, writer, movie buff, introvert, desert-dweller, omnivore, gym rat. May, or may not, have a burgeoning collection of Darth Vader t-shirts. Can usually be found drinking protein shakes, playing with daughter, working out with his son, or hanging out with his wife. Makes a living playing with computers. Subscribe to RandomlyChad by Email

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  • Crap Chad, now you’ve made Star War bittersweet for me too.

    I was born in ’77. Saw the first film on video just after Empire Strikes Back released when I was 3 or so. Didn’t see Empire in theaters, but by the time Jedi came out, I had probably watched the first two films over 100 times each. Not kidding. Really, really, really love some Star Wars

    • Sorry about that! But it is irrevocably tethered in my mind to these watershed events. Honestly, I would’ve worked in my experience of seeing Empire at the age of 11, and how my stomach rose and fell with the speeder shown on screen, but that experience was distinct from the others:
      Because an older cousin took my brother and I to it, my folks were not a part of the memory. Thus, thematically, it didn’t fit with the dualism I was trying to achieve in my recollections of New Hope and Jedi. That my happiest Star Wars memory is associated with the darkest entry in the series is an irony not lost on me.

      • Empire is perfect in my opinion. Desert island and I can take one movie, I’m taking Empire. And no problem Chad, it was a very touching post.

        • Agreed! It’s a great film! Iconic scenes, lines, etc., and ironically the one Lucas was least involved with.

          Thanks much!

  • This is touching. I will keep your father in my prayers.

    • Thanks, Kevin! Much appreciated!

  • Breigh

    Dearest Randomly Chadwick, I must say, your Twitter blog pics get more and more handsomer by the day. As your popularity grows, no doubt, you must feel the need for a certain amount of non-recognizable privacy. 😉 Ok……..I wrote the first part of this smart remarked post..before I read your blog. I hadn’t put the ‘timing’ or the ages into my brain and processed them. I certainly did not know about the Star Wars Connection. Can I say…I hate it? I hate that he did this to you boys. I don’t hate him..I pity him. He clearly has missed out on one of the greatest pleasures on earth. And..continues to. I still feel your pain and it breaks my heart in ways you’ll never know. He’s only my uncle..and I certainly have no control over his actions, yet, for some reason I always wish there was something I could have done to make things different. I just don’t know why he was so absentee. I ‘get’ the whole divorce thing. (Unfortunate and ugly, but I understand it all too well.) But…neglecting the kids, too? I DON’T get it..I’ll never get it. I don’t know why he did that. Well…..you’re a better man for it, obviously. You’ve learned through your pain and became a much better husband and father than he could have ever hoped or dreamed to be. Congratulations.
    And..the story was, um…good. It really was.

    • Dearest cousin,

      Thanks for both your humor, and your kind words. I have my own theories about him, and they’re about as old as time. Very simply: he had abandonment issues of his own, a very, very hard few years, and a need to prove to himself his worth. Unfortunately, this came at the expense of his family. That’s really all I’m wiling to say in public (because it is neither my purpose, nor my place, to disparage the man).

      The long, and short, of it is, like everyone else, he needs Jesus. There’s just too much water under the bridge for him to actually “hear” it from me.

  • Well I was 16 in 1977 so I can remember everything about the premier including several friends who stood in line SEVERAL times to watch it again and again. We are Sci-Fi freaks and love next generation and the original Star Trek too -- we own the series of those and all the movies 🙂

  • I went with my dad, too. I remember the theater, seat and snacks. We were not “affluent” we were barely “fluent” so a trip to the movies was a monumental event. Now I live on a different continent from my Dad and I miss those simple things.

    • Isn’t the simple things that usually end up mattering the most?

      After the events described in the post, he would give me things--but not himself. Yet, since God and I found each other, I find just the opposite is true of the Heavenly Father: He’s far more interested in being with me, than He is in giving me things (I say knowing full well that I’m blessed beyond measure to live in the US).