I’m a sucker for a good sappy movie. Not the chick-flick kind where Hugh Grant plays some poor sot whose girlfriend dumped him and then comes running back. No, the kinds of movies I fall for are the ones that tug at the familial heartstrings. For instance, the movie Jerry McGuire always brings me to tears at the end. I know it’s the butt of many “you complete me” jokes, but there were some really great performances in that movie, once you quite seeing Tom Cruise jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch in the back of your head.
Another one that I am a sucker for, is “The Family Man,” with Nicolas Cage and Téa Leoni. If you haven’t seen it (and shame on you), it’s about a successful financial whiz (Cage) who is given a “glimpse” of what life could have been like had he not moved to Europe and become a wealthy banker, and instead stayed home and married his college sweetheart (Leoni). In this glimpse, he lives in a typical suburban rancher with his two kids. He’s a moderately successful tire company executive and his wife is a pro-bono lawyer. By the end of the movie, he’s acclimated to his new life and when it comes time for him to resume his old life as a wealthy playboy, he doesn’t want to go back. Back in his real life, he meets Leoni at the airport and convinces her to stay and talk to him about “what might have been” and they spend the night in the hotel coffee shop reminiscing and catching up.
The obvious point here is that we never know what life would be like had we made different choices. And I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve made a lot of choices in my life that have dramatically affected the way it’s turned out. For one, I joined the military instead of going to college first, no doubt changing the direction of my career. Another big decision of mine was leaving a girl I was engaged to (OK, she actually broke off the engagement first, but we kept seeing each other until I finally walked away). And of course the big one all of us married couples made, is the decision to get married. In this regard, I’ve often wondered about the big “what if.”
What if I’d never gotten married? What if I didn’t have these children that I complain about so much? This is where the movie “The Family Man” comes in. In it I see the possibilities of my life. Not that I would be even remotely as successful as Cage is in the movie, but I wonder where I would be and more importantly, if I’d be happy.
But then even as I watch it, I remember CareerMom and my first date. I remember how much I couldn’t wait to see her again. I remember the times that I’ve been sick or in the hospital and she’s been there to take care of me when none of my family could be bothered. Then I remember our children. I remember how, just when I didn’t think I could take any more crying or dirty diapers, my son looked up at me and smiled and snuggled his head against my chest. I remember how when he fell down the stairs under my watchful eye, I moved faster than any human could possibly move under his own power (actually beating him down the stairs), catching him just as his head would have hit the wood floor and I remember how, panicked, I held and rocked him until he stopped crying.
I remember all of these things and I realize that this is my glimpse. My real life is the life I used to dream of before I had it. Sure, I didn’t have a few of the facts down, like the lack of sleep or how my free time would suffer, but overall it’s just as I dreamt it.
And I wouldn’t trade it for all the Quan in the world.