Movies ticket stub

A Tribute To Those Who Take Us To The Movies

"Some other of those memories I cherish are the movies we saw, the times we went to the theater, and, of course, the War Horse screening we went to."

I can’t think of anybody I know that ever found a love for the movies on their own. Whether they’re people who spend every weekend at the cinema, or if they enjoy cable reruns of their favorites, everybody has someone who took them to the theater or showed them the classics.

It is my opinion that not one phrase or blanket statement can sum up what the people who take us to the movies mean to us, and how they impact our lives. I think the only way to do that is for each of us to tell our individual stories. I have several people to thank for my love for movies, and one of them passed away very recently. She was my Grandma Bonnie.

The inspiration for my moviegoing love is spread out among many relatives. Two of my aunts and uncles share credit for my love of Star Wars, my favorite film of all time. My mother and father shared some of their favorite comedies with me on tape at a young age. Another of my aunts made it a tradition to take me to the theater every time she came home, seeing Harry Potter or Pixar movies. My Grandma Bonnie is to blame for my love of superhero and sci-fi films.

One of my earliest memories is going to the local gas station where you could rent VHS tapes, and my Grandma and I always picked out Batman Forever. Now, I know it’s not the most acclaimed of superhero films, but we always enjoyed the film for its entertainment value, goofiness and all. She also introduced me to the Christopher Reeve Superman series, and the first film from 1978 remains, in my opinion, the best superhero film ever made.

Grandma Bonnie
Grandma Bonnie

My grandma was also one of the very earliest Star Trek fans, loving the original series, particularly Mr. Spock. My enjoyment of the TV series and the film series always reminds me of her. When it comes to taking me to movies, my memories of that are a little limited, but one that sticks out is another now-considered sub-par film, Superman Returns.

This turned out to be a very essential moment in my moviegoing career. As I mentioned, Grandma Bonnie was a massive fan of the original series, and since Returns was a homage to the original series, she loved it. In fact, when she took us, it was her second time seeing the film. While I was young enough to not have the super-critical mind that I have today, I didn’t love it as much as she did, but still enjoyed the film. Her unbounded love for the film showed me it was okay to love the things you love, even if everyone else disagreed.

As the years went on, Grandma began to show signs of forgetfulness, every now and again saying she would be there for my chorus concerts or my brother’s basketball games, but she would show up late with grandpa, not remembering what time it started. This was about 8 years ago, and it did not improve from there. In 2011, Steven Spielberg released the film War Horse, and I saw it as an unprecedented opportunity as a moviegoing experience, and to this day, it remains one of my more treasured theater-going memories. Again, you might not like that one as much as everyone else does, but I always have a nostalgic twinge for it.

My whole family is very hard to please when it comes to movies. My parents have such different tastes, and the same is true for my brother and sister. However, when War Horse was advertised, it seemed like one everyone wanted to see. I also noticed this was true for my grandparents, who hadn’t gone to the movies in years by that time. So, with a little work, my whole family, my grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousin all sat down and watched the film. Until very recently, my grandmother never forgot to mention War Horse and how much she loved it if the topic of movies came up around her. The same is true for my mother. This also turned into the last time I would see a movie in the theater with my grandmother.

Grandma, Me and Tim

About three years ago, my grandmother was unofficially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and life with my grandfather out on the family farm became a risky business. It seemed every day my mother, aunt, and their two brothers had to fight over who would have to drive up to their childhood home to help out with an argument, or to remind or take them to doctor’s appointments. This continued until July of last year when my grandmother was admitted into a local retirement community, and my grandfather went into assisted living to be nearer to her.

I am of the belief that when it comes to family members or friends dying or going into the home, I’d rather spend my time reminiscing about the old days than remembering them sitting alone, or lying in bed helpless as a disease or time took their toll. Because of that, I only visited Grandma Bonnie once in the home, and that was with my immediate family by my side. Even that one experience forever taints the images of grandma as I remember her. She was able to leave the home twice for family holiday celebrations after that, but we all knew the grandma that we loved had really gone in July.

She passed away on her birthday, November 18th, and as the family began sharing memories, I found more and more of them that were shared by others in the family were about her final year and a half in the home and those in the Alzheimer’s/dementia ward. I prefer to remember her being at the old farmhouse, arguing with grandpa about everything, baking cookies, cake, or brownies and talking about Tiger Woods or the various tennis stars. Or up at the old family fishing cabin in northern Minnesota, rowing us kids around the lake and watching the grandkids as the parents went on three-hour fishing trips.

Some other of those memories I cherish are the movies we saw, the times we went to the theater, and, of course, the War Horse screening we went to. Grandma Bonnie was a devoted grandmother, never skipping any of her grandkids’ athletic events, or my music and theatre events, and the clergy at her funeral made note of this. I always knew that she would be in the front row for anything I did, whether it was playing piano (which she loved and always shed tears of joy over), or acting and singing on stage, playing the trumpet, and especially when she was able to read papers or essays I wrote.

Grandma was also very quick to note that of the thirteen grandchildren she had, I was the first to have a love for music. As it turns out, I discovered a couple of years ago that she was voted Most Talented by her senior class in high school. I had always taken for granted up to that point all the times she sang to us, or joined in on singing “Happy Birthday” at parties. While she was always in the stands for the football, basketball, baseball, softball, and volleyball games her grandchildren were in, I could never understand how it felt for her, a great lover of music throughout her life, what it was to have someone break the mold from the sports-heavy family.

All of us have someone like that in our lives, and if you’re lucky enough to still have them around, be sure to let them know, in whatever way you can, what that meant to you. Whether it’s a gift card to the theater or just a call or text on the phone, let them know. I wish I could say I did that for Grandma Bonnie. Unfortunately, with Alzheimer’s, I didn’t, and even if I did mention it in the last couple of years, it wouldn’t have gotten through. I’m hoping that wherever she is, she sees this and acknowledges with a friendly smile and five quick kisses on the cheek her thanks.