The scene opens as a 60 year-old white haired man is smiling in the center of the controlled chaos of a multi-generational family gathering. There are his three children and their spouses. There are 5 grandchildren, ranging in age from 6 ½ to three months. There are 2 dogs, Shi-Tzus, slightly overwhelmed and trying to stay near but safely amid the throng.
After awhile, everyone settles down and the man’s older son starts a DVD which shows us the man’s life.
The picture is in black and white, because it’s the 1950s. We see a baby in a hospital bassinette next to another baby boy who is two days younger. Newspaper photographers take pictures of the two cousins born in the same hospital two days apart being held by their mothers. Our baby is his mother’s fourth child. His cousin is the first. We next see the little boy, a chubby white-blond toddler making his way through a mess of toys and siblings, trying to find his mother. She is holding a newborn boy. Our little boy is no longer her baby, and he feels a sense of loss at his place in her heart. But, there’s always a big brother or sisters to play with and there’s always some crackers and a jar of peanut butter on the kitchen counter if he wants to eat. We see him waddling toward the camera, one of the aforementioned crackers between his sticky fingers. His expression is a bewildered acceptance of his circumstances.
As the film fades into the next scene, our little boy is 5 years-old. He’s wearing shorts and a Catholic school uniform shirt. Try as he might, he just cannot keep up with his three older siblings as they walk the short distance to his first day of school. He wants to cry as he leaves his mother, but we see her occupied with his three younger siblings. One of them, a sister, is only a few weeks old. School is frightening yet somewhat calmer and much more controlled than home. Our little boy struggles with first grade, until one day, it suddenly makes sense, and all those letters on the pages of the books become words and sentences and stories. He loves the parts of the school day where they play with numbers. He likes the part of day where they play sports less. His classmates don’t understand the patches he wears on one of his eyes, and they can’t see the world through the blurred vision of those little eyes.
Those light blue eyes determine so much of who our little boy becomes. We see him leave school in the middle of the day and travel on a series of city busses as he goes into the big city of Miami to let the doctors play with his vision. Most of the time, we see him sitting alone in a doctor’s office waiting room by himself, dutifully circling letter “E’s” in paragraphs of magazines. He understands that somehow this is supposed to help him see better. By now, his world is in color and he wears big thick glasses over his blue eyes. He’s quiet and shy and does his best to not add to the disturbance of controlled mayhem that is his family’s home. There are nine children now.
The film goes into a montage of children playing in the front yard of a house with a coral rock front. They are playing in sprinklers and with balls and hoops and Frisbees. The play usually spills into the street, and we hear someone shout, “Car come. Run.” All the children race from the road into the back yard. The younger ones show delight on their faces. The older ones display a sense of worn, ennui at the familiarity of the game. There are birthdays and graduations. There are broken arms and stitches. There are Christmases and Easters and picnics at Grenald’s Park. We see our little boy become an adolescent and then a teen-ager. We see him excel at school. We see him at church. We see him trying to stay in the background and not be a part of the tension between his older siblings and their parents. His mother is in college now, and when she graduates and starts her first year as a teacher, we see our long haired white blond boy wave from a passing train as he travels north from Miami to college in Gainesville.
We see him studying math and riding his bike and going to church and letting loose at football games. We see him pondering his future and wondering if God is indeed calling him to be a priest. In his senior year, we see him in a circle of people in a meeting of others who wonder the same thing. And we see him walk home with a girl from the meeting, and we find our shy blond boy opening up and telling her things he never knew his heart needed to share. And within days, we find our boy in love.
The DVD footage shows a cheesy courtship between two very innocent and inexperienced young people. Their view of the world is blurred as life seems to swirl around them, allowing them their own private space to find out who they are through the eyes of each other. We see them struggle with God’s call and with trying to maintain grade point averages when all they want to do is be with one another. We see them walking on a beach at sunrise, hand in hand, light-hearted and serious, and we know that life will never be the same for our protagonist. A week later, we see him down on one knee and we see their embrace. The film speeds up as we view their wedding and the births of their children. And we watch as they move from place to place and his career expands and their family grows. And we see our family live their lives and travel across the country and into their unique story. We see our hero receive honors and awards and a patent, and we see him travel to England and Singapore and Africa in his career. Again, there are more graduations and weddings and babies.
And our film takes us back to the party where our little boy has grown old and is celebrating the end of his work, and the beginning of the rest of his life.
And looking down upon the whole scene, we see the center of his life, the reason that our little boy was brought into the world, and more than all those at the party who love this man, there is God who created all of them. And our blue-eyed man looks up, tears spilling from those same eyes that we’ve watched, as the face around them changed, and we see him say a prayer of gratitude for all of it.
And we know without being told, that his story continues…