I rarely watch movies when I'm on planes; I either work or sleep. Flying gives me a few hours of alone time to catch up, which generally means writing, reading emails or getting some shut eye. But for some reason, even though it was an overnight flight, I felt compelled to watch a movie on a recent trip from New York to Berlin.
Something drew me to this movie, Rudderless. Directed by William H. Macy, it got good exposure at Sundance. The lead character is an advertising executive and a father. I'm not sure why, but I clicked in.
Maybe it's because I'm putting the finishing touches on my own book about fatherhood, and the movie description said it was about a dad... a dad dealing with the death of his son. A dad dealing with the death of his son from one of those campus shooting incidents. A dad facing the trauma of his life, just as I am trying to chronicle my own journey as a dad.
The shocking death of his son was delivered right at the beginning of the film. Even more shocking -- SPOILER ALERT -- his son was the mass murderer on campus.
I was up for the entire flight and the entire next day in Berlin. I couldn't get the story off of my mind. His son's death put this dad in a downward spiral. This dad was dealing with so many emotions; so many emotions that I think any father could relate to, despite the extreme nature of this particular story.
Are we responsible for the actions and behaviors of our children... our adult children? Is it our fault? What did we do to cause this? What could we have done to prevent it?
Does isolation or anonymity take away the pain? What's our duty to disclose information?
Am I doing everything I can to help my children be confident young adults?
Basically... am I a good enough father?
Let's face it: When it comes to being a parent, we are all rudderless. There's no rule book to follow and no training that can possibly prepare us for the journey.
Rudderless is a very real portrayal of how tough it is to get over life's struggles. And sometimes, you never get over them. And sometimes they affect others, a lot.
My life in no way compares to Rudderless, and I hope that's true of most all of us. But I am a dad, and I carry tremendous responsibility for the physical and emotional well-being of my two children. Now that they are adults, I work hard to continually build their confidence as they tackle life's challenges. So far so good, despite the ups and downs along the way.
As I write my own journey as a father in my new book Out and About Dad, I'm soaking in every story I can about other fathers. I'm a firm believer that we can learn from each other, fact or fiction, and that the role of being a father is the most important one we can play, fact and fiction.
Thank you, William H. Macy, for this amazing portrayal of another dad. I learned from him.