Reel Life Journeys

Fathers and sons love on the same frequency

Frequency-800x345Dear Dad,

I watched a really good movie last week with Tommy – Frequency, starring Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel. It came out in 2000 – did you ever see it?

Tommy gave the film high praise, so I really wanted to watch it with him. As you know, it’s important to share special moments with your children because you never know how many you’ll have.

The story is set in New York City in 1969. Frank Sullivan and his son John are huge Mets fans. Poor souls. Lucky for them it’s the year of the “Amazin’ Mets,” that stinking team that beat our Cubs and then defeated the Orioles to win the World Series.

That year we lived near Chicago, cheering for every Cubs victory and dying a little bit when they lost. How could they be leading the Mets by 13 games with just six weeks to go and then lose all those games at the end? It should have been the Cubs in the Series, not the Mets.

The night the Cubs officially lost the pennant, I remember how upset you were. While you were working at the hospital late one night, I wrote “Go Cubs in 1970” on single sheets of notebook paper and laid them on your bed. I was 11 years old at the time but I remember that night so clearly. Mom told me the next day that you liked the message. I hope so.

Anyway, Frequency shows how Frank, a NYC fireman, often talks after dinner on a short-wave radio. He even shows his six-year-old son John how to use it. Unfortunately for the family, Frank soon dies fighting a warehouse fire and never sees his son grow up to be a New York policeman.

Thirty years later, John finds his father’s short-wave radio and turns it on. Through the time-compressing properties of the visible Aurora Borealis (and a lot of movie magic), John picks up a signal and begins talking to his father in a time before the fatal fire.

They talk back and forth in a regular conversation, each sitting in the same house, though separated by 30 years. After they sort out the reality of their incredible connection, the son tells the father how he died and tries to convince him to take a different path and save himself.

I wonder what I would say to you, Dad, if I had that same opportunity. Would I try to get you to stop smoking and avoid a lot of fried foods? I know I couldn’t keep you from eating our favorite salami or Mom’s bagna calda, but perhaps a few more salads and a lot more exercise might have prolonged your life.

When I look in the mirror and see a younger you, I know that I need to watch my own weight and other vital health numbers like my blood pressure and cholesterol. Maybe I can convince myself to improve my lifestyle, so that you’ll always live on through me.

The film blossoms into a full-blown murder mystery, as the son/cop investigates a serial murderer who still terrorizes the community. In one timeline, there are only three murders, but after Frank is saved, eight more murders occur. Father and son work together, thirty years apart, to track clues, discover the killer’s identity and stop him before more murders permanently scar other families.

Just like in Back to the Future, photographs change as people are affected by the police work. At the film’s end, father and son are very grateful for the additional time they had together.

But it’s never enough, is it Dad?

Just a few weeks ago I thought about calling you to ask which team would win the Super Bowl, as I have many times before. Then I remembered that you are in a better place where earthly concerns no longer matter.

Can you see us from heaven? Do you know how much we miss you? Can you pray for me and our family as we struggle with the same life issues that you faced and conquered?

I wish I could talk to you again and hear your friendly greeting “Hi, guy.” I heard your voice in a dream last week. It filled me with so much warmth and love that it hurts now to recall it.

The photographs in my mind won’t change in the coming years, they are frozen forever. Future photos will never show your face and smile.

But it’s my hope that my sons and daughter will have many, many years of photographs with their father. Good times, bad times, even times when nothing special is going on. We’ll be together, enjoying each other’s company and hopefully talking on the same frequency.

We never know how long we will have with our loved ones, so seize the day while the sun still shines, until Our Father calls each of us home to His side.

Daddy, I’ll talk to you later.

Love,
Chris

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First published in the February 24, 2006 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2006 Christopher Fenoglio.

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