November 20, 2011

Choosing Movies for Dad

Every day the routine is the same. My father gets up early and leaves the apartment, and heads to the basement for the treadmill. By the time he comes back, my mom is ready to get up. He bathes her, dresses her, brushes her teeth, puts in her bridge, combs and styles her hair, sprays a dab of some Elizabeth Taylor perfume on her neck, and gets her breakfast out. If she's sleepy after breakfast, he'll go to "koffee klatsch" with the men in the dining room.

Most of his friends are dead, and at age eighty, his career days and volunteer pursuits are mostly behind him. Yet he manages to stay very busy, always volunteering for something. For a long time he was picking up what he called "an elderly woman" -- age ninety-plus -- for church every week. Their church services start at 8:30 a.m. How he could manage to get himself in a suit and tie, mother in a lovely outfit, and still pick up a lady he barely knows is beyond me, but that's my dad.

For dad, though, he is now less busy than he has ever been. So he tends to be like a ten-year-old boy, getting into business that probably should not really concern him.

Last week I received a call from the activities director at the retirement home where they live in an independent living apartment.

"Your dad asked me to call you," the woman said, "Every Monday we have movies and he has been really upset about my choices recently."

Oh, brother, I'm thinking. My dad's taste in movies are very narrow. Can't have much swearing or violence unless its a war picture, and then not much more than John Wayne waving a gun. Absolutely no homosexuality. "I accept it, but I don't want to see it on screen." None of this sex before marriage business on the screen, either.

When he mentioned his dismay over current movies to me weeks before, i suggested he tell the lady in charge to go to the American Film Institute web site. They are always listing things, "Best 100 Films of the Century" or "Best Chic Flicks of 1979". I figured he could find something there. Of course when he went to her, she called me.

So I pulled up the list ( and sure enough there were some terrific movies. But I could also tick off the movies that I know would be unacceptable.

Godfather I, well, there's that business about the horse

Schindler's List, maybe, great flick but the reality he might not like

Chinatown, well, there's that business about the nose

Annie Hall, no, I can't see him getting the humor of Woody Allen (which is unfortunate, but I just can't see it)

M*A*S*H the movie, actually, he would probably love that one. He was 4F, but all his buddies went to Korea.

Streetcar. Who knows? A great work of literature with many truths and a good look into New Orleans, but would he be upset over the Blanche DuBois/Stanley Kowalski interaction. Should we call it rape?

The list had many movies the activity director could get on Netflix, including The Best Years of our Lives and Singing in the Rain, and ones I'm not sure he would accept like Tootsie.

She also told me that there was another resident in the same group who refused to watch any movie made before 2000. I feel very sorry for this woman. Now she is alternating between past and present movies to accommodate both my father and this woman.

She was also befuddled by his greatest loathing in the movies, animated animals. Want to see him go berserk? Suggest watching Charlotte's Web. As a man of the land, he doesn't believe animals should be "personified." Yeah, I know. That leaves out Bambi and a whole lot of other classic movies.

But I gave her my suggestions, because he is eighty years old and those Monday afternoon repasts with Mom, sharing a box of hot, buttered popcorn is about all he has to anticipate.

And next week, when they visit for Thanksgiving, we'll watch The Sound of Music or Oklahoma or The Music Man, something where there's little pain, no dementia, no aging, and a happy ending.