Friday, November 23, 2012

Important Advice

Most of the time, I'm pretty skeptical of advice. I much prefer observing a person's actions or listening to his or her opinion on an issue over hearing a blurb of advice. That's not to say that I don't want to learn from someone else's experiences because I definitely do. I'm just not crazy about boiling down those experiences into a neat little package of advice.

Because I work off the premise that everyone comes from different life situations, I never assume that what worked for one person would necessarily work for another. I just figure that if we all casually share what worked for us and leave others to pick and choose what may work for them, then we can all help each other out.

Yep, I am not one to think I have any quick pieces of advice on anything, especially something extremely important and personal like raising kids. For instance, I can't believe I ever internally judged parents for keeping their kids quiet with a handheld video game at a restaurant. Now we will try anything to get our kids to sit still at a restaurant and I'm pretty sure that 15 minutes of Madden '13 while we scarf down a meal isn't going to set them on a bad path. 

Given all that, I'm definitely not one to give anyone advice on dealing with cancer. But on the night before Thanksgiving, I came up with what may be my one and only piece of advice for any family dealing with cancer. It's really simple, and (with a half-joking tone), I implore anyone at all connected with this adventure to heed it. You ready? Here it is: 

No matter how much you may love Matt Damon, do not ever, EVER, watch the movie, "We Bought a Zoo." 

Unfortunately, Brian and I learned this lesson the hard way. If you've never seen this movie, Spoiler Alert, because here's the basic premise: 

Cute young dad (Matt Damon) finds and marries the love of his life. They have a boy and a girl and lots of good times together. Young mother dies of what appears from all hints in the movie to be cancer. Adorable Kids and Cute Young Dad suffer through their grief for Late Wife/Mother. Cute Young Dad decides his hometown reminds him too much of Late Wife/Mother and moves Adorable Kids to totally different house that happens to be a run-down zoo. Personality-less zookeeper (Scarlett Johansson) and Cute Young Dad meet while trying to get zoo ready to re-open. Old tiger dies. Family still grieves. Cute Young Dad takes regular trips to Home Depot with Adorable Kid. Family still grieves. Personality-Less Zookeeper and Cute Young Dad finally kiss. Family still grieves but things improve slightly when zoo reopens and lots of people come. 

Forty-seven minutes into the movie, Brian and I were literally bawling our eyes out. Hysterically. We were trying to laugh about it, but that wasn't really happening. I convinced Brian that we'd come so far in the stupid movie that we had to keep going because there was no way it would continue to be so sad. Movies always start with the sad parts but now it will turn into the love story and them fixing up the zoo. Yeah, that never really happened. Down to the very last scene, Cute Young Dad and Adorable Kids desperately missed Late Wife/Mother. 

Here's the kicker -- it was based on a true story. Oh yes, after the last scene, Brian and I somehow read through our eyes full of tears that Benjamin Mee and his two kids still live at the zoo. You've got to be kidding me. I told Brian we should check on Wikipedia to see if maybe, by chance, Mrs. Mee perhaps died of something besides cancer. As if that would make us feel better. 

I have never seen Brian cry so much in his entire life (and he's OK with me writing that). I tried to make jokes, which were not at all funny. I assured him that this must have been before Herceptin. They should have written that in the credits, I told him frustrated. I was at the zoo when you told me, was Brian's only response. Holy crap. He was. 

Well, shit. I lost it. I have never cried so much in my entire life. We just sat there, an absolute total mess of tears, on the midnight before Thanksgiving. You should have gone drinking with your high school friends, I told Brian, laughing/crying. Or we should have watched a different movie

We were suffocating with pain. Raw, terrible, I-don't-know-how-I-will-stop-crying-and-get-off-this sofa pain. It lasted far too long, which may have only been five minutes. But then, I started laughing. I don't know why. I think it was the irony in the fact that we never have time to sit together and watch a movie, that we chose this movie which was basically the nightmare we wish to avoid every night, that we didn't fall asleep in the middle like we usually do, that Brian was at the zoo when I told him. Obviously I wasn't laughing at this family's grief. But I couldn't stop laughing. Hysterical, I-don't-know-how-I-will-stop-laughing-and-get-off-this sofa laughter. Brian caught on too. I don't think we have ever laughed so hard together. 

Earlier that day, Brianne and I decided that next year we are starting a night-before-Thanksgiving tradition with our families (I can't believe little James Joseph will be here by then!). I think it's the best idea, and not only because we need something besides complete and total emotional meltdown on the night before Thanksgiving.

Much of the time we were watching the movie, I couldn't help but wonder if it was a forecast of things to come. Unfortunately, Brian's hair is not nearly as full as Matt Damon's, and I'm pretty sure he wouldn't buy a zoo if something happened to me (he doesn't ever even want a pet). More importantly, if, Heaven forbid, anything ever happened to me, I sure as heck hope he finds someone with more of a personality than Zookeeper. (In fact, before I even had cancer, my cousin Tara had a very funny act comparing how she would want her husband to grieve forever if something ever, Heaven forbid, happened to her, while I would want Brian to immediately move on and find someone else. Seriously, I would, but he hates when I say that.)

Anyways, now that I have collected myself, I realize that We Bought a Zoo is a forecast of things to come, but not at all in the morbid way I had been thinking about it as we watched it. Somehow, from the worst sad-crying we have ever experienced, we found laughing-tears. In the end, we made a very bad movie choice given the circumstances, and I really do advise anyone in this situation to stay far away from that flick. Next year, we'll begin a new family tradition and I'm sure we will laugh so hard about our response to We Bought a Zoo. That's the forecast as I see it -- many years of laughter and much more careful movie choices. 

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I can't help but note that on one of the most beautiful autumn days I have ever seen, the Canton Bulldogs pulled off an unbelievable underdog win (in overtime) at the Thanksgiving Day football game. Absolutely awesome, and the start of what may have been the best Thanksgiving I have ever had.


  1. I can't believe you somehow picked that movie. :) It's awful! Yay for your laughter!

  2. I suppose I should take that one off my Netflix queue...