Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Time Traveler's Wife

Pathé: The Time Traveler's Wife

Last night I decided that I didn't want to go to sleep right away after climbing up to my bedroom. I turned on the television, which I don't actually do that often, and found that a movie was just about to begin. It was called "The Time Traveler's Wife." I thought, perfect, just the right type of fluff I am in the mood for.

It was an interesting concept, about a guy whose DNA made him travel time, forward and backward, without his control. Well, let me first of all put out a disclaimer of sorts. It didn't hurt that the promo showed one very handsome Eric Bana, moving from time to time, always showing up somewhere in the nude. Thank you very much! Even though I am lost in my grief these days, I am still your typical, visual, oversexed male. Anyway...

The time traveler meets a young girl in a field, and they quickly becomes friends. Through the movement of the story you realize that this young girl is to be his future wife. There is good acting, beautiful scenery, and lots of cute Eric Bana to go around. Being in the type of mood that I have find myself in as of late, I must admit to shedding a tear here and there. What I wasn't expecting was to suddenly become completely engulfed in deep sorrow.

There is a scene where the characters accidentally witness a moment of Eric Bana's character coming forward into present day, where you see him dying. The couple, and their friends, stands there horrified by this image of a man so vulnerable and broken. It happens so quickly, and so unexpectedly, but the look upon the wife's face, and the visual of looking down at her husband, dying, hit me like a ton of bricks. This has never happened to me before. The moment I saw this I completely lost myself in emotional agony. It was just as it happened the moment that Michael died.

I remember holding Michael throughout the night. I was soothing him, and administering morphine to keep his pain a bay, and to help his labored breathing. When he suddenly took that last breath it felt like my last breath was also taken out. I felt like something larger than life had hit me right in the gut. I screamed out loud from the deep recesses of my being, fell to the floor and sobbed. It hurt, and there was nothing to prepare myself for this.

Last night the image of the husband had that same effect on me. It was as if it unlocked a part of that experience from a year ago that was too much for one soul to bear. As I watch the television, I bent over in pain, and sobbed out loud. I cried more than I have in so long. It hurt. It felt too big for me, and I questioned what I should do. I knew that my cousin was asleep downstairs, and thought perhaps I should go wake him up. I thought that I should quickly get on the floor in case I felt faint. I wondered if I should run to the bathroom in case I got sick. It was that bad.

What I chose to do was just keep breathing. I sobbed, and I breathed. I sobbed, and I breathed. During this I had the television on pause, and once calm, decided to move forward with the story. From there the experience of watching this story got easier. That is, until the very end.

The wife's husband has died, and you hear her daughter acknowledge that she has remained alone, and sad over the years. But then, when I should have known it would happen, the time traveler showed up again. He was talking to his young daughter, who quickly wrapped her arms around her father. She screamed out to the wife, who started running as fast as she could. She kept calling out to the traveler husband to not leave before she got there. Of course in the end he is able to remain long enough for that one last embrace. That's when I felt the pain of being stabbed in the heart.

Isn't that what we all secretly crave? To have one last time to hold them in our arms, to kiss them and taste their lips on ours. To feel their breath upon our face, and to find ourselves breathing along with them? Well, another avalanche occurred in my room. Sobbing, and more sobbing.

I thought to myself, what the fuck am I doing? Why did I choose to watch this? And why do I put myself through this?

I wish I had a clever answer to give you, but in times like this I don't think clever enters into the picture. It might have been fate, meaning that I needed to let down my drawbridge. Perhaps it was just a coincidence that this particular movie was on. I don't really know what to think. I don't even think I have a good conclusion to this post.

Maybe it was just to make me realize how big this loss is in my life. In a way, it allows me to appreciate how well I am doing. Look how vulnerable I am to have completely fallen apart by a simple movie. Sp much has happened to me in the last few years. My husband got cancer. My husband died. And I am here to survive.

I am surviving.


  1. I read that book, in "before" life. One of those books matt used to tease me about, because I *hated* beautifully written, poignant fiction. I hated to feel such intense pain for fictional characters. Ah, and then I am now living it. None of that movie for me.

    Oh, Dan, I know that spot, the falling to the floor, so close to sick because you cannot CANNOT swallow this reality, way too much pain for one soul to bear, not being nearly big or wide or deep enough for this monstrosity. (wasn't planning on that word, but there it is). I do so much want a chance to discuss this, to say WTF just happened, and what am I supposed to do now? I mean, obviously, I want far more than that.

    Sometimes these too-precise-to-be-random "coincidences" can feel a little cruel.

    It is Huge - loss like this.


  2. Dan,
    I reacted in a very similar way to this movie. I, like Megan, read the book in my "before" life so I knew what I was getting in to when I took the movie to watch while I was away on my solo grief trip in Feb. The movie is a little different from the book, as they always are, but it provided the emotional punch that I knew it would. I had to pause it twice while I sobbed loudly and the snot flowed. His death scene, oh it took me back and the last embrace at the end literally knocked me over (it's not in the book). AT the end I sure felt like I'd released a lot of pent up grief. Maybe I should watch it again tonight...

  3. This movie is one probably better left unseen by me. I'm still dealing with what seems to be a good dose of PTSD - the after-effects of Don's final days on a ventilator in ICU after months of pretty miserable decline. I'm hoping that, given enough time, my mind will begin to over-write some of what are, for the most part, pretty morbid memories.

    But yes, I agree very much - you've come far and well considering what you've been through. I try to remind myself of that too. That said, there is still a long way left to travel. We're doing okay - it just takes a lot of time for the pain to subside to a bearable level.

  4. Dan,
    Thanks for the heads up on a movie to avoid. I am paralyzed by grief these days - not writing, not reaching out, not doing much of anything. I guess it is the after-effects of my 24 days away from reality. The real world and my lonely life were waiting for me when I returned and have bitten me in the ass. Your pain and grief this week are all too familiar. I really do not want to be here and I am sorry that you are. We are helpless it seems when it comes to the waves of grief.
    I start back to work this morning and am counting on the fact that I have done this for 14 years and I can still do it again.

  5. I read the book before Cliff died and I howled at the end. Really howled. So when I watched the film I knew what I was in for ... but felt compelled to watch it ... and reacted as you did too. And I realized that I would go through the worst moment of my life, again and again, ad infinitum, just because it would afford me the luxury of having a taste of him, even if only for a stolen moment, even if it was only every 5 years, that I could do this.

    Forever is such a big word. Acceptance terrifies me. That's why this movie brings us to our knees, literally.

    It is a beautiful story. A love story. But wow does it bring our pain to the fore and out loud and clear.

    I wonder if the person who wrote it suffered a loss like we have? If he didn't then he has enormous empathy and certainly "gets it".

    I love you Dan, and find it no coincidence that I watched it around the one year mark too ...

    BTW, "The Lovely Bones" had a similar effect on me. I watched it en route to Australia and the airline hostesses had to comfort me and cuddle me half way through. I couldn't stop watching that either though.

    Perhaps these books/movies validate our feelings?

    I have to tell you that when you wrote, "What the fuck am I doing?" you had me laughing out loud through my tears.

  6. man, Boo - you never cease to make me cry. Forever is such a big word. Acceptance terrifies me. And I would do it all again, and I could maybe live this, if I knew I'd get to hold onto him every five years, to just hold on again, and be held on to. A visceral reassurance.

  7. I think we'd all give the world for one more hug, one more embrace, one more kiss...

    Brent and I said good-bye in NYC January 2nd. I was driving back to Richmond from there, he was taking a shuttle to JFK to fly back to New Zealand later that afternoon.

    We had said good-bye in the parking lot. I sat in the car with the engine running & I just couldn't leave. I sat there & cried. At the time I thought it had to do with just having found out that I was pregnant a few days earlier; with having to say good-bye once again...

    I knew if i didn't leave right then & there, I wouldn't get back to Richmond before late in the night & I hate driving in the night. Yet being a true Pisces, I let myself be led by my emotions. I turned the car off & went back upstairs.

    I had an emotional meltdown in the hotel room. We took a shower together; laid in bed together a bit longer. I felt better about leaving after that, but it was still hard. There was a fear in me that I wouldn't see him again. I told him. He looked at me like I was crazy. Of course we'd see each other again...

    I'm glad I did it.

    He died less than three weeks later.

    Turns out going back upstairs were the last minutes we spent with each other - ever.

    Gosh, I miss him.