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Depending On The Kindness Of Strangers... Quick Chat With My Dad

I’ve always loved the movies.


Remembered and realized tonight that is one of the very deep ways I connect with my old man.


Sure, I donated a kidney to him back in 1998, and we’ve always had a pretty good relationship. But the best conversations, the ones that had the most meaning to me personally, were the ones surrounding film.


We tried to connect over sports, and did for a bit with baseball, and again in the early 2000s when the Detroit Pistons were a dominant force in the NBA, but where we could talk, or more importantly, just kinda sit quietly together and experience stuff, was with movies.

He took me out of school on my 8th birthday to see a matinee of Star Wars, which started the path I’m still on today.


I returned the favor on his birthday when I took him out of work early on his birthday to see Die Hard when I was in college. I even gave him a grey sweatshirt that I had airbrushed “Now I Have A Machine Gun… Ho Ho Ho”, that I wouldn’t be surprised if he still has in his fall/winter collection.


This is not my father.

But some of my favorite memories of growing up revolve around going to theater, usually Woodland, where we saw Tootsie (because The Black Stallion was sold out), Being There, and National Lampoon’s Vacation. Or the great Studio 28 in Grand Rapids, where we saw everything from The Rescuers, The Muppet Movie, Ghostbusters, the aforementioned Die Hard, Toy Story and a midnight showing of Jackie Brown.


He excitedly described episodes of The Twilight Zone when our local TV station announced that they would be running episodes of the old show, and his glee at watching us all gasp at the end of The Eye of The Beholder episode.


Masterpiece. I remember Dad vividly describing this entire episode before we had ever heard the theme.

But it was on our massive sectional couch down stairs where we would have family movie nights on Saturday night, over a pair of Pepperoni PizzaPizzas and 2 orders of Crazy Bread, where we took in The Untouchables, Beverly Hills Cop, Blade Runner, The Blues Brothers, The Toy, Splash!, The Natural, Back to the Future… and then late nights after I’d get done working at Pine Rest at 11p, coming home and Dad would stay up as late as he could through The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, and Planet of the Apes. One Christmas, right after I got divorced, watching The Red Violin.


There were always movies on in the house, and Dad would always watch them too.


Tonight we were chatting as he and Mom were getting ready to head out for an appointment and he brought up how much Blanche’s line “I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers” resonated with him as they are encountering so many different people in the West Michigan health care system. We talked about doing that play at Calvin, but then about Marlon Brando, and then Elia Kazan and how horrible the blacklist was, and how great East of Eden and Rebel Without A Cause were.

Vivian Leigh as Blanche in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE

I can rattle off stats and years and directors and actors, and my dad also gets all that stuff, like sports stats. And I’ve kind of always taken that for granted. I used to think he and Mom were just kind of humoring me because I loved it so much, but I understand now that he is very much connected to those same threads. And teaching me things about the movies, actors, and directors he admires.


And I see it in myself now too, becoming more interested in the artists and music that resonate with my daughter, sharing their passions in a way I wouldn’t have before.


Maybe it’s symbiotic. Neither one of us led the other to it, we just all decided to drink from the same stream.


The last film I got to take my folks to was The Call Of The Wild at El Capitan in Hollywood, and we were able to see my name in the credits, under Additional Voices (which we are often not listed) and what a thrill it was to share that moment with both Mom and Dad, to see the name VANDENHEUVEL on the same cast list as Harrison Ford. It’s not about “making it” but about sharing a common love of something that inspires us all and helps us see more truth about life and living.


Original Art



Like Father…


… like son.

Movies have always been the timeline of my life, and I’m lucky and proud that I’ve gotten to share so many of them with the Old Man. (Props to Jean Shepard and my dad’s ragged old copy of “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash.”)


Tonight I watched Smokey And The Bandit for the first time (shame on me for waiting so long) and I told him about it, and we laughed about Burt Reynolds and the car chases, and in the middle of all their medical drama, it was great to hear some laughter on the other end of the phone.


I wish I had watched it with him back on that old sectional.


But it was enough that we had both seen it.


“We've got a long way to go, and a short time to get thereI'm east bound, just watch ol' "Bandit" run” - Jerry Reed


January 14, 2022

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