“Cowboy movies are simpler than a yo-yo’s mechanism”, as the father of my good friend said. He sadly passed last fall, a victim of the same type of cancer that is consuming my dad now.
They both belong to the same generation, born in the early 1940s in a Spain that just got out of a devastating and bloody Civil War. Most of the kids in my dad’s generation experienced hunger and scarcity. The result was that by the time the economy turned somewhat around and these kids were young men in the 1960s, still living in a Catholic dictatorship with very few tolerated pleasures, abundant food and drink were at the epicenter of all activity worth spending time on. Perhaps with the exception of going to the movies.
I remember dad’s stories about the time when there was no TV, only radio. And when going to the movies was a special event. It was a window to the world, even when censorship was selecting what you were looking at. My dad’s view of the world was shaped in some measure by all those Classic movies from another time, when men’s references were John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Gregory Peck or Charlton Heston, to name a few.
I feel much sympathy for the Spanish baby boomers, they got the shortest straw. None of them experienced real freedom in their youth, women’s lib never arrived, the hippy movement was extraterrestrial to them if they ever heard of it. By the time there was any real consciousness, protest or revolt against the Spanish establishment in the second half of the seventies, most of these guys were already married and with small kids to feed and living life like their parents. And sometimes in total inner contradiction, torn between the traditional expectations of a rigid society and Bob Dylan’s the times they are a changin’.
Anyhow, my father loves movies. As soon as the video appeared as a household commodity in Spain, he bought a VHS AKAI machine and recorded all kind of films from the television, which we then would watch, particularly on weekends. Bilbao is a rainy city, so a fair amount of my childhood was spent watching old movies at home, which turned me into a bit of a Classic movie nerd. While other kids my age watched “Ghostbusters”, my idea of comedy was Hepburn and Tracy’s “Adam’s rib.”
Today we are back to basics. There is nothing more important than what is going on at this very minute. We try not to think about tomorrow, nor the day after. We don’t make plans. Our days are a series of routines mastered over the past months, only disrupted by the occasional visit to the hospital’s ER. These routines make my father feel safe and calm.
Like our daily dose of Classic movies. There is something comforting about the memories these films evoke, about the associations, the storylines, the format. They sooth my dad, distract him from his troubles, allow him a break from his physical and emotional strain.
When it’s movie time, everything else gets shut out and for some moments he gets the freedom he has always wanted. We’ll keep ’em comin’, dad. Just for you.