All families have their own little peculiarities that mark them as family. These also serve the purpose of providing wonderful fodder for their children to swap with other children in the never-ending game of one-upmanship, a competition which has been going on longer than the Olympics. One of the peculiarities of my family was that whenever we went to a movie (which was not very often), our father timed it so that we arrived at the theater in the middle of the movie. He did not like to look for a parking place, compete with whatever crowd there was, stand in line, or anything else that goes with public outings. His first line of defense was to stay at home, but on the rare occasions that he ventured out he always had a strategy to minimize the disorder and chaos. This was not surprising to us since Dad actually was a rocket scientist. His plan for movies was that we arrive and leave during the middle of them and avoid the crowd and other related issues. While none of us else cared for this arrangement, we had to concede its overall effectiveness.
I remember us going to see Airport, a movie based on the novel of the same name by Arthur Hailey. It was released in 1970 and was not only the first disaster movie, but it spawned no less than three sequels (quite impressive for the pre-Star Wars and Rocky days). I can still see our family standing in aisle, squinting down through the darkness in an attempt to locate six seats together and then excusing ourselves down the row to our seats. We watched the movie from the middle to the end, then remained there while everyone left and a new crowd entered. We saw a Pink Panther cartoon, some movie previews, and then watched the movie from the beginning to the middle. When we arrived back at the middle, my dad looked down the row and whispered to us, “This is where we came in, it’s time for us to leave,” and we would get up from our seats and excuse ourselves out.
The car ride home was usually quite lively as all the children worked together to synchronize the events of the movie. The problem was—none of us were rocket scientists.
But the point I want to make is that there turned out to be a blessing in all of this because our family peculiarity helped me understand something important about both life and death. In the world we live in, there are all kinds of people who are older than us and younger than us, but very few people who are exactly our age. If you’re not careful, we tend to judge them all by where we are. Perhaps we look at the younger people and think, “Why aren’t they any smarter than they are?” (By this I mean smarter more in terms of life experience rather than academics). And it’s equally easy to look at people who are quite elderly and feeble and think, “Well, it’s sad that their life is nearly over because there’s so much more to experience.” I believe in both cases that kind of thinking is flawed, because it assumes that everyone walked into the movie theater at the same time as we did and that’s not the case.
The younger people have just arrived. They may think and act as though they know everything (we did in our day if we’ll remember), but the truth is they have not been in the theater long enough to know all the subtleties or even adjust to the darkness. And the folks who have been there a long time, don’t feel sorry for them as the time approaches for them to leave—they have seen the whole movie. When their time comes, they are usually ready to go. And always, always, always, listen to what someone older has to say. It may be totally wrong (but more likely there’s a pearl of wisdom in their words). Whatever the case, they have seen more of the movie than you have and you owe them the honor of hearing them out.
Regardless of when you came in, enjoy the movie. Appreciate the experience, don’t spoil it for others, and most of all, be ready when Someone looks at you and whispers, “This is where we came in, it’s time to go.”