Watching the recent film of this title made me think. It also made me laugh and it made me cry. It made me yearn for some space and wilderness away from Oxford, for mountains and forests and seas. It took me back to younger days of trogging in the hills and mountains with Dad and reminded me of my pain.
Grief jumps up and hits you like that at times and, in the same way that Chris McCandless didn’t know where he was going or how he would get there, this crazy grief road feels a bit like that, too. There are the relatively easy-going bits which tick along and then there are the uphill efforts that make you sick with the effort, the long windy bits where you can’t see the next phase, and all of this is shot with massiver, unexpected pot holes,too. You never see these until you trip into one. 17 months to the day since he died today and I am glad that there are fewer of these potholes on the road right now. But the sting of his absence is just as sharp now as in June 2006. There is one saving grace in all of this. That is that he no longer suffers the excruciating pain from the arthritis, and that his courageous battle with his degenerating body has inspired me. And it always will, which is a special thing to know.
It keeps me going when I’m plugging away on the rowing machine, or lifting monstrous weights in the gym and don’t feel like being there. It warms me when the tears flow on hearing his favourite songs, and I search for it to comfort me when I feel empty inside at the still shocking realisation he is dead and that we number four in the family at the dinner table now, even if we are five within.
The film led me on to question my responsibilities and rights to plan my mad oceanic adventure. What of my folks in all of this? I think sometimes I get tied up with the excitement and try and blot this out of the equation, partly as a security blanket for I know that 100 days at sea will be as hard as them as it is on me. In the film, Chris McCandless scrawls across the book he is reading as he slowly starves in a lonely death, the words ‘Happiness only when shared’ . While I know I can be happy alone and toute seule I also reaffirmed to myself that indeed, solo is fine for a while, but for the most part, its best to be surrounded by folk. Particularly those you love.
Finally, I liked this quote from the film as it reminded me of Dad.
‘I read somewhere… how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong… but to feel strong’
He often had more faith in me that I did myself, so I would somehow believe in myself through his own assurances that all would be O.K. So, even when those potholes appear, I will just keep at it and one day the road will smooth out a bit, the wild grief somehow tamed and more manageable. And finally of course, it embodies his situation of a failing body on the outside, but strong mind and spirit within. Big respect, as always, Pops.