I’ve always sort of divided my life into eras based on the releases of Star Wars movies. Laugh if you like, but major changes in my life always seemed to coincide with them. The release of the Special Editions marked the beginning of my independence as a teenager. The Phantom Menace opened the chapter of my life that saw me pursuing (and fulfilling) dreams of writing and filmmaking.
As we approach the 10 year anniversary of Attack of the Clones (which hit theatres May 16, 2002), it seemed fitting for me to look back on one of the most important changes in my life: becoming a father.
The Star Wars movies were always important for me as a coping skill. The various VHS releases were the escape I needed to survive a physically and verbally abusive father. The Phantom Menace was the tonic I needed to deal with the separation of my parents, and my father from me. In the lead up to Attack of the Clones, I’d gotten married and my wife was expecting our first child.
The child’s due date coincided with the release of the film, but I counted on the fact that the unborn kid shared enough of my DNA to let me see the film opening weekend in peace. I caught it five times, reveling in the movie each time. I know now that I see Star Wars as it should be, not necessarily as others do, and Attack of the Clones hit all the right notes of romance, action, and tragedy in my mind.
Everyone says the birth of your first child is supposed to be the greatest day of your life. Not so for me. May 22, 2002, a mere 6 days (and 10 viewings) after the release of Episode II, was perhaps one of the most terrifying days of my life.
After hours and hours of a difficult labor, my would-be newborn’s heart stopped.
An emergency C-section had to be performed and the nurses forgot to remove me from the O.R. My wife was laying on a table, cut open, bleeding, unconscious, my baby wasn’t breathing. I was convinced through teary eyes that I was reliving the end of A Farewell to Arms.
I could hear doctors behind a curtain, silhouetted by bright lights, performing CPR on the child. A nurse stopped to reassure me. “We’re doing everything we can for your son.”
“It’s a boy?”
“Yes. You didn’t know?”
“No... But his name is Anakin.”
As they ushered me out of the room, I heard him cry out once. He was alive. Barely. The doctor’s collapsed one of Anakin’s lungs reviving him, so he had to be transferred to a Newborn ICU at a different hospital, three cities away.
I spent the next four days and sleepless nights dividing my time between my newborn son and convalescing wife. Once she was discharged from the hospital, she could keep a vigil over our little padawan, who would spend another week on feeding tubes and being constantly monitored, and I would have a break.
“It’s okay,” she told me. “I know you want to go. You deserve it. We’ll be fine.”
And she was right.
Rest was a reclining theatre chair and a matinee of Attack of the Clones. Not since the whole ordeal had begun had I become so relaxed. That escape allowed gratitude and relief to wash over me in the form of a star crossed love story at the onset of The Clone Wars. As the bright yellow Star Wars logo flashed on the screen and the theme song burst from the speakers, I knew everything was okay.
It’s hard to believe, especially looking at my Anakin today, that all of that happened ten years ago this week, but every time I watch the film, I feel grateful to it for getting me through the most difficult time I’ve ever had. I love that movie.
Isn’t that what our favorite movies are always most about? Not the movies the themselves, but the personal stories and feelings we attach to them.
That’s just a few of a thousand reasons that the force of Star Wars will be with me... Always...