I believe it is always wrong to give in to the seductive temptation to dwell on despondent thoughts, and who does not have them. In my case, it is doubly wrong because I live with the two best dogs in the world, first of all who happen to be champion borzoi, and secondly are “Tresor” and “Jelly”, respectfully, therefore not ordinary dogs. All I have to do is look at them, and they turn their eyes to me with a luminous gaze that speaks only of love.
But to err is human…..as the first part of that famous adage goes. And I do say about myself I err with great ease.
I found myself alone with a large amount of time on my hands this weekend. Well, why should that be anything new, since everyone knows I live a solitary life here at Blyss Kennels aside from “Tresor” and “Jelly” regardless of any efforts I have made to the contrary. And I forgot to consult my new method of coping with this which is centering on Catholic reading and writings, based on my already strong foundation in that religion. It sounds like such a wonderful idea until a difficult time arises, then I never think of it.
Sunday was a perfect example. I was planning to spend the afternoon alone watching Turner Classic Movies on cable TV hanging out with the borzois. Sure enough, toward the end of the day, a particularly weighty film was put on, The Heiress (1949) Dir. William Wyler, starring Ralph Richardson, Olivia De Havilland, and Montgomery Clift. I was familiar with the story, having read the Henry James short novel. It was as tragic a domestic tale as was ever written. I wondered if I was up to watching it. The doomed heiress, Catherine Sloper, reminded me so much of myself, that in the area of personal happiness, everything had gone terribly wrong through no real fault of her own, just family dynamics, especially with her father. It made me wonder if perhaps I should not watch it at all, fearing it would plunge me into a deep depression. I thought more and more about what to do. Then I was struck with a fantasy. It went like this.
What if we could go back in time in a time machine, and be in the days when Henry James was writing The Heiress. Instead of a father regarding the marital prospects of his daughter so poorly that he suspected a man would marry her only for her money, that his generosity of spirit would allow her to marry a rogue whom she loved in order that she may enjoy the happiness of marriage. Instead, he interfered; she lost the man; the two of them – father and daughter – ended their relationship together despising one another. I imagined my Sunday afternoon spent alone for so many of the same reasons could be placed into a time machine. Suddenly, I was a ghost sitting in the room with Henry James. I was able to influence his creative spirit! He wrote the novel with the happy ending. Then, one hundred years later, the movie shown on Turner Classic Movies last Sunday would have the happy ending.
Who knows, maybe I could be in a time machine and go back in time. Would my father get a second chance to get it right and after despising me, love me instead? How different a person would that have made me? But surely, Henry James, being a great writer, might have found a way for his paternal character to make his daughter happy. Would my father have recognized his cosmic “second chance” and done a better job the second time around? I know now as an adult, he meant well, I know he did, if only he could have…… Then, my Sunday afternoon spent alone in the present and watching the Heiress would have had a totally different emotional response. And I would not be the person I am today.
I watched the whole movie and found myself reacting to something different for the first time. I no longer saw the father as a true villain. Although I felt emotionally closer to the young woman I found myself having an understanding for the values of the father. Having worked in a demanding career for thirty-eight years from which I recently retired, I can see the value the father placed on his own money, and his wish not to see it squandered on a foolish son-in-law. This complicates the story, adding to its value as a masterpiece, does it not? No one is truly right, and no one is truly wrong. Perhaps I should try to think of my father that way. There are no good guys, there are no bad guys. There are just ordinary people trying to get it right at the end of the day.