If I didn’t know better, I would think I had tempted fate. The same day I wrote my Winnie the Pooh chapter dealing with the bitter-sweetness of growing up, I received the phone call no one ever wants to get: my dad was hospitalized after a massive heart attack. Both his father and his grandfather died young from massive heart attacks; with my dad nine years younger than his father was when he passed away, I irrationally thought I was somehow guaranteed nine more years with him before I really had to worry.
Less than 48 hours after writing that saying goodbye to childhood innocence is optional, I had to do just that. I had to grow up, board a plane, and fly home to bury my father. I set foot in 10 states while flying there, helping to move my mom back to Oklahoma, and flying home. I’m now fairly certain there’s a Jacksonville in every state (after researching this I discovered it wasn’t true, but there’s probably a Jacksonville in every state we drove through. However, I’m too lazy to research that, so it’s just speculation).
There are many difficult apects about losing a parent, whether it is unexpectedly or not. I was fortunate enough that my parents were still married—in fact, their 30 year wedding anniversary would have been just one month after my dad passed away. Because of this, having two parents was a simple fact of life for me. The sky is blue, the grass is green and I had two parents. The world was well and balanced, and since April 16th my world has felt unwell and unbalanced. I keep saying things like, “my parents’ house” and “my parents’ car”. Now I have to say “my mom’s house” and “my mom’s car:” It’s a small thing, but it’s a huge adjustment to make when I’ve been saying their names together for 24 years.
When I did travel, which wasn’t frequently, my dad wanted my flight numbers. My sister, who travels monthly for work, always forwarded her itinerary to our parents so they would know if her flights were on time and she was safe. On my day-long journey from Alaska to Florida to join my family, I looked at my flight numbers and had opened my phone to call my dad and tell him when I remembered he wasn’t there, that his absence was the reason I was traveling at all.
There are hundreds of tiny adjustments you have to make in your thought processes and actions, like not picking up the phone to call him anymore. But there are also things you don’t even think about. For instance, when watching The Rescuers Down Under, the little boy reveals early on that his father is gone—as is the giant golden eagle’s husband, rendering their eggs fatherless.
James’ first comment on the movie was, “Thanks, Disney,” since I was trying to escape into animation and forget, for at least a little while, the loss I am dealing with. Before I even resumed my project, I realized that Mufasa’s death in The Lion Kingwould hold an entire new meaning for me. Although that part of TLK may be more difficult, there’s a line from Rafiki and an entire new song with the same message in the Broadway adaptation: “he lives in you.” This is both a condolence and it makes me a bit sadder; on one hand, my dad is never truly gone because my sister and I are so like him. Yet on the other hand, it’s a reminder that he isn’t here anymore. I’m not sad for him; I know he’s in a better place. Rather, I’m sad for me. I keep realizing all the life events he’s going to miss, and they hit me suddenly and randomly. I’m most sad for the grandchildren he will never hold, the stories that I’ll have to tell them on his behalf.
The hardest part for me is recognizing that life goes on, and that he would want me to resume my life and not spend my days crying constantly, completely consumed by loss. Because I have a strong faith, I know he is in a better place. Yet it’s still difficult to go through the motions of everyday life, pretending everything is okay and my world hasn’t just permanently changed. Some days I get so caught up in the façade of living life like I did before April 16th that I forget, even if just for a moment, that he’s gone. Just as suddenly, I remember, and I feel as though I’ve been kicked in the gut.
I was very happy living in Denial-ville until the night of the visitation. Since we were having a closed casket funeral (neither my mom, sister nor I find that looking at the body provides any kind of resolution; we prefer to remember him alive and laughing rather than frowning in a casket), I wasn’t expecting the coffin to be in the chapel until the following day. When I walked into the chapel, I saw the Ford-blue casket and my knees instantly felt weak. My dad’s photo sat atop it, and the photo slideshow played on a loop for the entire two hours. I essentially felt as if my little town of Denial had been put through a washer and dryer on the intense-super-muddy cycle. It was much harder to pretend the whole situation wasn’t happening after that.
I thought when I returned home I could go back and rebuild my happy village of Denial. Then I hear a song on the radio or pass a photo I have up of the family, and it hits me again. The tears are unstoppable and the feeling of heavy stones in my stomach won’t go away. I’ve dealt with death a number of times before, but it’s never been like this. I feel as if part of me has been amputated; I still feel itches and tickles on the missing part, but it’s just a phantom limb—it isn’t there anymore.
So it is with a heavy heart that I venture back into the wonderful world of Disney animation. I need the uplifting happy endings more so than ever before. My Disney glasses are unhinged and in need of repair, but in time I believe they can be fixed. In time, my pain will lessen. In the meantime, Disney will help me through it.
The Rescuers Down Under didn’t really help all that much. It was released in 1990, and I remember loving it as a kid. I loved the little mice dressed in clothing and the fact that the kidnapped kids could talk to animals—and they talked back! That was the best. But while I liked it, and can clearly picture that VHS cover, it just didn’t stay with me that much. I liked it, sure. It made me laugh, but it didn’t quite make me cry. I felt a bit ripped off. Cody spends so much time with the poached-but-still-alive animals, yet when McCleach dies, he doesn’t go rescue them. James justified that, saying the little lizard used his tail to get out once, so he could do it again.
The part I really didn’t like was that poor Cody’s mom was told her son was dead, and it never shows their reconciliation. We know he’s going home, but after being put through the ringer thinking he’s dead, when should get to see his mom finally. After all, we never see her face. Are the non-villain adults not important enough to show their faces? How can we spend so much time on McCleach and ignore the rangers and the mom? We should at least see their faces.
Also, I know why the little boy is named Cody. I’m pretty sure 80% of the boys in my 1990 classes were named Cody. It was a super popular name in the late 80’s, and I thought it was hilarious that Disney used such a popular name for a protagonist.
This is the only animated sequel to hit theatres before the Disney-Pixar merger. It did so terribly, it’s the main reason why there are so many terrible direct-to-video sequels: they realized they didn’t have to work hard enough to please a theatre audience, just enough to please people who already liked the characters and would rent or buy the movie based on that alone. Thanks for that, guys (sarcasm here. I don’t like direct to video sequels, excepting The Lion King 1 ½ and The Lion King 2).
The animators also tried out CGI and digital renderings on this film. Unfortunately, they didn’t really like them and didn’t put the time, effort or financial backing into exploring them. Thankfully for us, Pixar did. The combination of traditional animation with CGI isn’t very well blended; you can easily spot the scenes that are CGI.
I’m looking forward to watching the original Rescuersin a few movies, since it’s been a good twenty years since I’ve seen it. Perhaps then I’ll appreciate this sequel a little more. Luckily The Little Mermaid is up next, which was a childhood favorite and is still near the top of my favorite animated list today. Once the whole project is complete, I may have to update that list.
One thought on “Loss: The Rescuers Down Under”
I can't really say much except agree that your father is in a better place. I also pray that you can find healing in your journey through Disney. I know that many times I have found comfort in Disney and you can too.