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The Empire Strikes Back


Full disclosure: I started writing some trite crap a few minutes ago trying to couch what's really happening in frilly language that in some way softened the blow of what feels like too much to take. So, I deleted that draft and now I'll write for real. Ugh. Sometimes this is really hard.


I'm committed to writing and sharing as often as I can and as honestly as I can, even when I feel like crap and/or what's happening is hard to handle.


In the early afternoon yesterday, I learned that two family members of mine with whom I've been very close for my entire life are really not doing well and are in failing health. I learned with even more specificity that this is quite an ordeal for my immediate family. I feel very far away and it's hard for me to know that these members of my extended family and my immediate family are having to go through this. It's also hard to know that, until recently, I wouldn't have been able to see them even if I were living right around the corner ... because of coronavirus measures. They have now been vaccinated and, even though I have not, I'm really feeling like I want and need to somehow be there for them.


Hours after having that conversation, I finally made contact with one of my nearest, dearest and closest friends in New York. Prior to mid-December and stretching back years at this point, he and I had been in the habit of talking multiple times a week and certainly once a week at the very least. When I was rehabbing from hip surgery a few years ago, he made sure to check in with me on a daily basis. Since mid-December, though, we hadn't had any FaceTime contact and our text conversations had become sparse and infrequent. I knew something had gone wrong, I just didn't know exactly what was happening. During this conversation yesterday, my friend confirmed that he'd been diagnosed with terminal cancer and that he may only have months to live.

I'm typing those words and I still feel distanced from them ... I'm certain that I still haven't wrapped my mind around what they actually mean. Since we got that news last night, there have been moments ... glimmers ... of the kind of sadness that this brings, but I've only been able to endure a small sampling of it. Even that is too much. I don't know how I'm supposed to do this. I feel so sad. This person has been -- and still is -- one of my closest friends, confidants, fans, supporters, mentors, teachers, guides --- and a model of the kind of person I aspire to be. It's too hard for me to imagine a world without him.


Sandwiched in the middle of all of this was a beautiful moment when Magnus and I went over to one of his closest friends' houses. His friend's father and I treated the kids to their first viewing of The Empire Strikes Back. It was a welcome break from reality to have that experience of watching kids learn for the first time of the true relationship between Luke and Vader and to watch this film from the late '70s / early '80s that has truly stood the test of time and that remains my favorite Star Wars film to this day. I have an unproven theory that George Lucas sought inspiration for Darth Vader's name from the Dutch language, where the word "vader" means "father." When they find out that Vader is the "vader," Dutch kids don't seem very surprised. No wonder.


There was a very sweet moment when, toward the end of the film, both of the boys got a bit scared by what they were watching and instinctively sat back on the couch and took comfort in being close to the adults. Magnus was basically sitting on my lap for the final quarter of the film and, for a moment, I felt very connected to him and was grateful I could be there for him as we all watched the end of the film together.


The final credits rolled and we eventually hopped back on our bikes to head back home.

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