Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hello, my name is Tom, and I am an adult who cries at Disney movies...

So last weekend we took our two daughters to see the new Winnie the Pooh movie. As usual, my eyes filled up a little at the end. This is not unusual for me and Disney movies. I am not too proud to admit it. The reason I choked up at the end of this one, (and I put out a large SPOILER ALERT here to anyone who hasn't seen it yet) is that after spending most of the movie scheming and hoping to get honey, Pooh goes to visit Owl, hoping he has honey, and notices that Owl's doorbell rope is made out of Eeyore's tail (which they have all been searching for throughout the movie). Pooh goes in and asks about the rope, and upon figuring out that it is Eeyore's tail, he takes it and heads off. As he is going out the door, Owl offers him some honey. Pooh Bear, even though his tummy has been rumbly since the beginning of the movie, says something to the effect of, 'No thank you Owl, I am very anxious to return this tail to my good friend Eeyore.'. Pooh thinks of someone else instead of his own need for honey, BOOM, I choke up.

The worst, by far, however, believe it or not, is 'Cars'. You know, the movie with the race car and the goofy talking tow truck....yes, that's the one. Chokes me up every time and usually a tear or two will spill. In the words of Eeyore, "pa-thetic". And in that movie, it's the same thing. It's the part in the final race where Lightning McQueen sees that 'The King' has crashed, slams on his brakes, screeching to a halt just before the finish line, giving up his Piston Cup championship, and then going back to push him across the line because he thinks, "The King should finish his last race.". Again, putting someone else before all he thought was important.

I was thinking of this during Sunday Mass a couple of weeks ago when the reading was about God offering Solomon anything he wanted, and Solomon asking the Lord for wisdom to be a good leader for his people instead of selfishly asking for riches or power for himself. (1 Kgs 3:5,7-12) It made me think of a story my father has told me about when I was in the hospital as an infant.

When I was two days old, I was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital because my 'color' wasn't right. It turns out I was a tad blue due to a serious congenital heart defect called Transposition of the Great Vessels. At three days old, I had my first open heart surgery. It was not a final repair, but it bought me three years (twice as long as they originally thought) until the final repair could be done on a larger heart, and with three years of technological advances. For most of the time, my mother was climbing the walls in Lawrence (Mass) General Hospital because those were the days when they would keep women in the hospital for a long time after they gave birth. My father was struggling to run his own business, a welding shop, and locked it up as soon as he found out what was wrong with me. He spent days and nights at the hospital, leaving to give my mother and the rest of the family reports on my condition and occasionally to see my two older brothers. Then one night, while he was at the hospital with me, he had gone to the waiting room.

When he got there, there was a young girl of about 20 years old. He had seen her there before, always alone. She had a daughter named Jennifer who had led a very difficult young life, and Jennifer was in the fight again. The doctors came in and took Jennifer's mother aside. They told her that Jennifer was not doing well. You see, Jennifer's extremities and the tip of her nose had started to turn black because she had such poor circulation. They told Jennifer's mother that she should probably just go sit by her and say goodbye because she was not going to last the night. When my father explains what happened next, HE starts to choke up.

Jennifer's mother looked up at the doctors, her eyes flashed with anger, and a passion burst forth from her as she told them, 'Who the hell do you think you are?!?! Are you God? Don't you dare tell me that my daughter is not going to last the night! She's fought before and she's going to fight now. She is not going to die tonight! She is going to be fine!"

My father was amazed by this young single mother standing up to the all-powerful doctors. The next thing my father knew, he was in the chapel at the hospital. He doesn't know how he got there, and he doesn't remember walking there. He's not even sure he knew where the chapel was at that point. He just remembers realizing that he was in there, on his knees, and he was praying, for Jennifer. Here he was in the hospital with his infant child recovering from heart surgery, and he was praying for some other kid. When I was younger, I often wondered what the hell he was thinking. I needed those prayers! But my father was moved to put someone else's needs before his own. Lately I've wondered how my father's prayers for Jennifer may have affected my recovery.

The next day, my father saw Jennifer's mother, and Jennifer was fine. Her circulation and color was coming back, and my parents actually saw them both about a year or two later in the doctor's office while we were there for one of my follow-up visits. Jennifer was still doing well, and I wonder if she's gone on to live a long, healthy, normal life. I wonder how much my dad's praying had to do with that.

In the Winnie the Pooh movie, Pooh Bear wins the prize for finding Eeyore's tail, a full honey pot so big he dives in. In Cars, Lightning McQueen ends up with friends and a real home, both of inestimable value. Both characters learn a lesson about what is really important in life.

My father...well, he got me, I guess. He never re-opened his iron shop, and he tells me he doesn't regret it one bit. I have been extremely fortunate, despite not taking care of myself the way I really should. When I see what other people with my heart defect and my particular repair for it have gone through, there is no doubt that God has had a hand in my life. And the more I learn about God and His word, the more I think that is, at least partially, because my father was praying for 'some other kid' when I was recovering from heart surgery.

I think tonight I'll say a prayer for Jennifer, wherever she may be.

God bless,