Larry Banman: Sometimes the only way to hang on is to let go
February 4, 2008
I have a love-hate relationship with the 1991 movie, “Father of the Bride,” starring Steve Martin and Diane Keaton.
I love the way it makes me laugh, the way it makes me cry and, ultimately, the way if makes be realize that the rite of passage that happens when children leave home is not something I have suffered through alone.
I hate the way it makes me feel when Martin’s character, George Stanley Banks, keeps getting left behind as he struggles to understand the changes that are occuring in the life of his daughter, Annie Banks, played by Kimberly Williams. As the movie plays out, George can’t escape the feeling that he is gradually being removed from the life of his daughter and replaced by the new love of her life, Bryan Mackenzie. It is not a process that George endures well.
To encapsulate the story, Annie is on her way home from Italy, where she has been studying for her master’s degree in architecture. George can’t wait. He has plans to take Annie to a basketball game, to concerts and he can’t wait to play basketball in the backyard. In his mind, the Annie Banks who is coming home is the little girl who used to race into his arms when he came home and call him hero. What he got was a young woman who had not only met “somebody,” she had fallen for him and, the killer for George, she and Bryan are already engaged to be married.
What followed was one defeat after another for George as he loses every conceivable argument about the upcoming wedding. He couldn’t hold the reception at a barbecue house, he wanted to pare the guest list, he was hoping for an inexpensive wedding cake, he didn’t want to hire a wedding planner, etc. etc.
Most of the fights were about money, but the real issue was really about George feeling like he was losing his precious little girl.
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One of the most poignant moments for me personally was when, during the wedding reception, George suddenly was called to handle a trivial matter. In doing so, he missed what he had been anticipating, a dance with the new bride, his daughter Annie. He was half-a-step late at every significant event that happened that day. Annie and Bryan finally drive away and George sees nothing more than taillights. At every step of the way, I feel George’s pain.
All ends well, however, with one phone call from Annie who calls George from the airport before leaving for her honeymoon. She thanks George for everything and expresses her love for her dad, who is still her hero. If you are the father of a girl and aren’t clearing your throat and dabbing at your eyes during this scene, please check into the nearest clinic and have a heart installed.
Children are designed to grow up. Part of that process includes leaving home and beginning lives in which they are independent and responsible for their own decisions. Part of good parenting, I believe, is preparing their children to make that transition as seamless as possible. Parents like to feel needed. They like to have the answers and to pick up the pieces. Sometimes, however, they go to the next step and want to be indispensible. That can be a dangerous position.
We have all heard variations of the story about not loving something unless you are willing to let it go. Those stories sound good, until you are the one going through that process because, invariably it brings pain. George Banks fought his way through the feelings of being an “old shoe” ” comfortable, but a bit outdated and seemingly out of step with reality. Most of us want to remain relavent. It is difficult when you begin to feel as if you are on the fringes.
Many in my generation are at various stages of the “old shoe” phase of our lives. George was able to discover that he still “fit” it was just that the definition of “fitting” had changed.
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