Jun. 11th, 2017

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When I was in my late teens, we discovered that my dad was very, very sick. He’d smoked pretty much all his life, as he’d had TB as a young man and word in the sanatarium was that “people who’d had TB never had cancer, here, have a cigarette.” That was the logic behind it, I kid you not. Turns out he never developed cancer, but there are other ways to die from smoking. Towards the end of his life, my dad had about half a (mostly fibrous) lung left to breathe with. We had an oxygen extractor at home and were told that, considering the state of his lungs, the flu was now his worst, most lethal enemy. 

He survived his first flu but it was a close call, and it was a very, very dark time in our family’s life. He was in the hospital in intensive care for several months and it was touch and go for a long time. I was still living with my parents at that time. I visited my dad in the hospital a lot but it was complicated - we had to change into sterile clothes when we visited him, he couldn’t talk at all at first, we had to help him eat and it was TERRIFYING because of the tracheotomy tube and the respirator - rice in particular gave me cold sweats, because what if a few grains of rice slid down his windpipe and ended in his lungs? 

I’d grown up in a house filled with laughter and talk and music, and all of a sudden I came home to an empty house every night after school. It was hard for my mother as well, but we’d always had a complicated relationship (to say the least) and one evening we had an enormous fight. As a result of this, she went three days without speaking to me. Now, I don’t remember what the fight was about (it was probably something minor, we were both on edge all the time), but I do remember my mother walking in and not even saying hello to me. I remember the crushing loneliness. (I also remember my own pigheadedness, make no mistake - I was no angel, it’s not like I tried to talk to her and she didn’t reply. I gave as good as I got.) 

I was very very lonely., so I started doing my homework in front of the TV downstairs every night, just to hear voices in the background. Now, this was back in the mi-80s, and in France, we had exactly three different channels to choose from. I picked the least boring one and just let it play through the evening. 

And this is how I started watching Santa Barbara (the soap). I’d never watched a soap opera in my life, had no idea how the genre worked, but it was soothing that stuff happened ALL THE TIME and all these people had astonishingly busy lives when mine was filled only with dark and silence and hospitals. For a while, I watched the show religiously every evening. My favorite character at the time - the one I identified the most with - was the daughter of the house, Young and Pure and Goodhearted and trying to be happy. She was played by a lovely actress who put all her energy into making this character real (and it wasn’t easy): Robin Wright. 

I kept my eyes on Robin Wright as her career soared and she became recognized as a Serious Actress. I was thoroughly thrilled to find out she was in Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman isn’t my usual cup of tea - I have a hard time with superheroes in general - but I make a point of taking my daughters to see movies with strong, interesting female characters. And that’s a good thing, because otherwise I wouldn’t have watched the movie last night and I really enjoyed it.   

But then of course because I knew NOTHING about Wonder Woman prior to watching the movie, I did not anticipate Antiope’s fate. I was watching the fight on the beach gleefully, happily munching on popcorn. My popcorn-filled hand was half an inch away from my open mouth when Antiope got shot. And then my mouth made a sad, astonished “o” and my fingers opened in shock. 

I spent the rest of the evening fishing pieces of popcorn out of my bra.  

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