I couldn’t tell her. I couldn’t even look her in the eye. I was too busy trying to stop myself crying, too busy trying to stop the tears flowing and stop those little hitching, twitching, spasmodic breaths that reduce you to a blubbering mess from taking control of my every muscle.
“It’s a father and son thing isn’t it?
I nodded dumbly, focussing on some indefinable point on the darkening, distant horizon while vainly and desperately choking back the flood that threatened to drown me in repressed sorrow and soak what was left of my soul in the memory of a thousand yesterdays.
“It’s okay. Let go, let it out”
So I did.
Of course it was a father and son thing. How could it not be? The whole damn saga is about the convoluted and, all too often, complicated relationships that exist between fathers and their sons. I don’t know how the Beard felt about his old man, but having seen ‘Star Wars’, ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and ‘Return of the Jedi’ more times than I care to count, and should have done, I’m fairly sure that they didn’t have a straight forward, easy-going, good natured, share a few a beers and have a laugh or two kind of bond. In fact, I’m fairly certain that they probably shared the same sort of affinity with each other as most of us do, and did, with our dads. That is, a messy, entangled, confusing mixture of pride, loathing and machismo that more often than not, takes us a lifetime to figure out and come to terms with.
I had, as I got older, what most folks would call a fractious and volatile kinship with my old man. As punk rock, women and a ridiculous desire to rebel against anything and everything slowly consumed me, we began to butt heads more and more, eventually reaching a point where we nearly stopped talking completely. Maybe we would have if it hadn’t been for Star Trek and all of the other wonderful things that he shared with me when the world was still a scary, brilliant, exciting place filled with mystery and endless possibility. The things that we could always fall back on, the things we could rely on to bring us back together no matter how bad things became. Chuck Yaeger. Doctor Who. Gagarin. Titov. Shepard. Grissom. Glenn. Gemini. Apollo. Verne. Heinlein. Perry Rhodan. The V8. Marvel. DC. Hammer Studios. EC Comics. Disney. And Star Wars. There was always Star Wars. That was our “thing”. Always had been, always was and always will be.
Seeing Star Wars was the first time I remember making a connection with my father. Hell, I think it may well have been the first time that the two of us had been alone together and didn’t have to rely on anyone else to make small talk or deal with any of the uncomfortable, difficult, daily crap that leached the life out of every parent determined to do the “right thing” for their kids. On that night in December 1977, none of that mattered. It was just us and a galaxy far, far away. From the screen being blocked out by a Star Destroyer entering high orbit above Tatooine to the destruction of the Death Star, it was perfect. Star Wars. My Dad. Me.
But the original trilogy also defined, and acted as a metaphor, for our relationship. As I grew up, there was the desire to escape the home that I’d grown up in, one governed by authority that I had to rebel, and fight, against in order to escape, the refusal to accept that I could be anything like him and the desperate battle to prove that I wasn’t, before eventually coming to terms with all that had happened, both good and bad, and making peace with each other in his final moments. Star Wars. That was always our thing.
Thirty eight years after I first entered a smoke filled auditorium with my dad and let my imagination travel through the murky blackness of space, I finally returned to that galaxy where it all began. The screen creep started, and I swear my old man was there with me, in spirit at least. Grinning from ear to ear, whooping with joy as the Falcon took to the skies again and laughing with abandon and absolute pleasure as the First Order, much like the Empire did in ‘Star Wars’ when confronted by the Rebellion, fell to the forces of the Republic. And I turned to face him, and for a fleeting moment, he was there, sat next to me. The tears began to flow and I smiled. Star Wars was still ours. It always has been and always will be.
It’s a father and son thing.