The Best Years of Our Lives
Last night, Angie and I watched ‘The Best Years of Our Lives’ on TMC. Made in 1946, the film observes the lives of three servicemen as they return to America after WWII and try to re-start their domestic lives. The most recognizable stars are Fredric March and Myrna Loy, one of my fav actresses from her generation, and the AFI has ranked it 37th on their all time greatest movies list. I take no issue with that ranking. It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, it won 7. Needless to say, it’s worth the watch.
While one guy comes home to a marriage that was 20 days old when he left for war and another fellow returns home missing two hands, I was struck by the story of Sergeant Al Stevenson, who returns home to find a son that’s a senior in high school and a daughter whose been working in a hospital for two years. His life has moved on. He gets a promotion at his bank upon his return, but he still can’t resettle. I was moved.
Even though I’ve seen the movie many times, for the first time watching this film I was struck by the cost that a father pays when he goes away to war, even if he comes home, by the cost that a wife pays in raising a family by herself and the cost that children pay by growing up fatherless for years. I couldn’t believe the overwhelming feeling of gratitude that I had. First, that I’d never had to go to war. Second, for those who have served in order to preserve my freedom to write this blog. I can’t imagine leaving home when my child was 1 and returning when they were 4, now that I know all the things that occur during that time and how much of their personality is formed in that time.
I can’t imagine trying to fit back into a world that had changed dramatically while I was away, fathering children who’d learned to live fatherlessly. Honestly, I don’t have the capabilities to fathom it, but I know enough to know that I don’t want to try it.
If you’ve not seen The Best Years of Our Lives, I recommend it for movie watching purposes as well as the portrayal of life after war.