Monday, April 18, 2011

Homework for No One (or I wrote this essay and didn't know what else to do with it)

Why I Shamelessly Saw Twilight in the Theater 10 Times

I have never really felt the need to justify this information to anyone. In fact, I probably never would have, had it not come up the last time my best friend, Valerie was in town.

We were cruising around town in my minivan (probably eating tacos), talking about the Twilight series, which by the way is not a remotely unusual conversation. I was lamenting the fact that I had not lived up to my goal of seeing all The Twilight Saga films as much as I had seen the first one (I believe New Moon and Eclipse are tied at 6 theater viewings each). We were laughing at the absurdity of it all, particularly that the last time I saw Twilight in the theater I went alone. At that point, the movie was getting pretty boring seeing as how I not only knew the plot, I had the dialogue mostly memorized and was unintentionally using it in daily conversation.

It was at this point that Valerie asked me what my motivation was for seeing this movie so many times. Was it Robert Pattinson’s brooding stare? Was it the amazing acting? The stellar hair and makeup? Was it an actual desire? It was a valid question considering none of these could logically be the reason.

To be honest, I’m not exactly sure if I realized the reason at that moment or I just finally knew how to articulate it, but I did know I had an overwhelming feeling to just open my mouth and say it.

The answer wasn't so much that I was obsessed with this movie; it was more that this movie was an escape from my otherwise horrendous reality. I had a daughter with cancer. At this point, she had been through two brain surgeries and multiple rounds of chemo along with grueling physical and occupational therapy. We had spent numerous weeks at the hospital. Three of those weeks involved waiting for her to recover from her first brain surgery in which they removed a golf ball sized tumor from her brain.

In those first few weeks, I never left the hospital. The days were spent either sitting in the NICU waiting room or at her bedside. I knew I should be in with her as much as possible, but I had a hard time looking at my daughter with a breathing tube down her throat, a drain coming out of the top of her head and various wires attached to her little body. She was doped up from sedative and swollen from steroids. The first couple of nights we slept on a waiting room floor. When she finally got to leave the NICU, we hit the jackpot--Ben and I got to share a twin bed in her “step-down” room.

It was during this time that we received her diagnosis of a malignant brain tumor. We had a three month old with brain cancer. She was to start chemotherapy as soon as she had recovered from surgery. After the doctors cleared her to go home, we got to leave the hospital for 3 whole days before she had to be back to start the chemo. We also had to learn how to insert a feeding tube into her tiny little nostril and shove it all the way down into her tiny little stomach before we were allowed to leave. The thing about the feeding tube is that hesitation is your enemy. You just have to shove that thing in until you meet resistance. We had a hard time with that at first, but then the next thing you know we are giving her nightly injections and drawing blood from her central line every morning. It was kind of a slippery slope.

Chemo was a once a month occurrence for 6 months. It consisted of three days in the hospital followed by twice a week trips to the clinic for labs. For the most part, the hospital stays went like this: I took the day shift while Ben worked, and he took the night shift while I attempted to be a parent to our 3-year-old son. When we came home from the hospital, my day revolved around a schedule of tube feedings and medication. I had a complicated relationship with the clock. I have never hated and relied upon something so much in my life. Feedings every two hours around the clock, at least 5 different medications at all times of the day, doctors appointments, physical and occupational therapy appointments along with my son’s preschool and other activities. After all that, it was back to the hospital. This time, a month long hospital stay for a stem-cell transplant. We mostly kept the same schedule: I did the day shift and Ben did nights. We would go days where a high five and a hand off of the car keys in front of the hospital was our only interaction.

During all this, a little movie came out (November 21, 2008 to be exact). The film adaptation of a novel I read. I knew when I had some free time, I would go and lucky for me, my free time coincided with the midnight premiere. I really wanted to see this movie, so I went with my equally excited sisters-in-law. The theater was packed with giggling teenage girls. The air was filled with a mix of anticipation and raging hormones. The lights went dim and the squeals began. When Edward appeared on the screen for the first time, the screams were deafening. I took it all in and I loved every second. The next chance I got, I went back to the theater.

Don’t assume that I don’t know Twilight is ridiculous. The acting is terrible and overindulgent. The make-up and hair were frighteningly bad and inconsistent. To analyze the books would be a huge waste of time--they are that poorly written. But guess what? I love them. I've read the books multiple times. I can't get enough of the movies. I love that I was able to go to the theater and escape for 2 hours. I was transported to a place where I didn't have to worry about giving my child an injection at 3 a.m. or cleaning up the inevitable vomit at least twice during the night or contemplating the irony that all the poison coursing through her veins was supposed to heal her. Getting sucked into the world of sparkly teenage vampires and forbidden love seemed like a much better solution to my problems. So that's what I chose. 10 times.


Heather Macbeth said...

Honestly, I have shyly admired you from a distance for a LONG time. I don't know how you did it with Lila. Seriously. I think you honestly deserve any praise that could ever be given. I probably would have seen Twilight 10 times, too! It's what got me through having a newborn Lily when Ben was working from 3 AM to 11 PM everyday, which I realize is NOTHING compared to what you've been through. Twilight is an amazing escape. I agree, it's amazing and craptastic all together. Who cares.

Seriously, you rock.

Christa said...

A+ on your homework assignment.

lindsey said...

Seriously, you do rock. I'm so glad that Lila has that healthy head of hair these days. :)

Also, I give your homework an A+ too.

D and C said...

I'm sitting here in my p.j.'s at 1:00 in the afternoon complaining and whining to myself that I hurt. That I am tired of the pain from my surgery. I go to Huntsman Cancer Institute for all of my appt.'s and BOOM. It hits me. I am a wuss. Thank you for being my hero Annie. There have been many times that I wanted to ask you what it was like to go through what you went through with Lila. There have been many times that I have held Emma and thanked GOD that she is ok. I honor you. Respect you. Look up to you and THANK YOU for this amazing post. Maybe someday I will be lucky enough to sit and watch Twilight with you instead of all by myself. we could even hold hands.

Janey said...

I pretty much think you are amazing! Escaping reality for 90-120 minutes is necessary in normal life, I can only imagine the necessity in yours.

Thanks so much for sharing, I love posts like this.

Gail B said...


im snicker/laughing at your twilight watching.

I didn't see it in theaters 10 times. I saw it twice, and a number of times (an uncountable number) in the comfort of my own home!!

I am so sorry for the craziness your life has been over the last half decade. Thanks for being awesome about it though. And I am glad for you that you had an escape.

Michelle Judd said...

Well said!

Rachelle said...

oh annie, you're great. like really, great. i would have chosen the outlet 10 times as well!

oh and congrats on the half marathon. you are now my hero!

Liz-a-nator said...

I love this. Thank you for sharing it.