It’s Christmas Eve, the house is empty, and I’m thinking about Star Wars.

The wine is flowing, but the tears haven’t started yet. Maybe they won’t. It’s my first Christmas alone and I don’t know what to expect. The girl I’ve spent fifteen years with moved out. My stepdaughter is gone. There’s other people I’m thinking about too, and none of them are ever going to be here either. Life is full of surprises, but I’m also not going to be surprised if the rest of it looks just like this.

My mother has been gone for a few years now, and my father’s about to join her. Pancreatic cancer. It’s been working inside of him for some time now and, whatever else it’s done, it’s stopped him from having real food. Maybe ever again. If this isn’t his last Christmas, it’s gonna be a miracle.

All of this comes on the heels of my fiftieth birthday, when I was already obsessing over how much time I might have left . . .

Obsessing over how much else might go away, what else I still have to lose…

While onscreen all of my childhood heroes are dying.

They took Han Solo first, and then they killed Luke. There was no choice but to let Leia go.

Yeah, they’re just characters from a bunch of movies, most of which weren’t even that good. But we grow up with fictions and characters and galaxies that aren’t our own. Most of the time they’re still a helluva lot better than the real world, even if some diabolical Empire is holding the reins. If they weren’t, then we wouldn’t have so many movies or books or TV shows.

We all need to escape.

We’ve all got horror stories about growing up, and I’ll spare you most of mine for now. But it’s no wonder that I was drawn to the tales an ignorant farm boy who stumbled upon the greatest adventures in the galaxy. Like it’s no wonder that a few years later I preferred the cynical smuggler who had seen too much to believe in magic anymore. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been watching most of the Star Wars movies (and even the events of my own life) from Han Solo’s point of view, smirking and unsure why I keep coming back.

I probably should never have been a father . . .

It’s not for the lack of love, but I’ve got a terrible relationship with responsibility, and obligation is an enemy. I should have gone off somewhere on my own to leap at the stars. 

Han Solo, again.

It makes sense that someone who just wanted to do his own thing, paired with a princess who always got her way, would produce someone like Kylo Ren. It also makes sense that the child of such a couple wouldn’t know if he wanted them dead or just wanted a hug.

Sometimes I wonder why my kids don’t hate me.

The original trilogy helped create my world. Yeah, there were a lotta other things too, but Star Wars was always there. All those action figures, coming up with my own adventures for them to go on, those things led to my writing. The writing formed how I see myself and pretty much everything I’ve done since then. It’s all in there somewhere.

You might get off the nowhere world of Tatooine, but someone’s probably going to cut your hand off. You can fall in love, but it’ll probably end with your heart frozen in carbonite. Even if you get the dream girl for a while, you’re eventually gonna die alone a thousand miles apart, while that desert where you spent your childhood ends up being the bright center of the universe after all.

Sand people. Snow speeders. Teddy bears that save the galaxy. These were my Star Wars.

Pod races. Water planets. Clone troopers and stats on every ship and weapon ever. There were my son’s Star Wars.

He’s almost twenty years old now, so he tries to play down how much he was into those movies. But they helped to form his world as much as the other ones made up my own. Maybe his mom and dad were never getting back together, but those battle stats would always be the same. He and his sister could only come out once a month, but Commander Cody was there every week.

Yeah, I owned four through six, but the first three were his.

We’ve been going to see the new ones together.

And the girl I’ve been calling my stepdaughter, she’s been watching them with me too. I wondered how it was going to be, now that her mother and I don’t share an address anymore. I was in the car, on my way to see my son . . . to see The Rise of Skywalker . . . when I got a text from her. She went away to college last year, but she’s home for Christmas.

Hey, do you want to go see Star Wars with me? she asked.

There were tears in my eyes. Of course.

And there’s my dad . . .

We were never that close. I was too much off in my head, my own galaxy far, far away, while he was always so practical. He could fix a car, but all I could do was write a story. Sometimes I wonder if it could have ever been different for us. Sometimes I wish so many things.

But he knows that I get nervous on the road, so he told me to be careful.

Told me to enjoy the movie with my son, because he knows it all ends too soon.

So the lights go down and the music starts and it’s me and my child . . .

And it’s Star Wars, like it’s always been Star Wars.

And it’s great and it’s terrible, but that doesn’t really matter.

It doesn’t matter that it’s stupid for the Emperor to be back, that he was doing who-knows-what for thirty years. Because that evil voice croaks out of the darkness and we’ve both got goosebumps. It doesn’t matter that Rey still isn’t as interesting character as we want her to be. Because Luke wasn’t that interesting either. It doesn’t matter that there’s gonna be another massive weapon that has to be defeated, this episode’s version of the Death Star, because we’ve come to expect it.

It matters that we see lightsabers, and that there are some raucous dogfights in space, despite the fact there’s really no sound.

It matters that Death Star wreckage dropped to the Endor moon, that my son nudges me because I’d just been bitching about the Ewoks. Or that I nudge him back when a couple of the little fuckers finally appear.

It matters that Threepio says he’s taking one last look . . . at his friends . . . and I’m thinking about everything, from my kids to my father to the families that will never be . . . and I’ve got tears in my damn eyes.

Or that Kylo has just chosen the path of goodness . . . and his father’s voice rises from behind him . . .

It matters that I’m alone tonight, on Christmas Eve . . . but it matters more that I’m okay with it. Because I’ve seen all of these amazing things, in other worlds as well as in my own, and it’s all just part of one overflowing and convoluted saga of life . . . and me and my son and my stepdaughter all think that it should have ended with Rey’s death . . . that the hero doesn’t always win, not without maybe losing something too . . .

Because it all matters, and it doesn’t . . .

And maybe it all sucks, but that surely doesn’t matter.

Because for just a moment, when those lights go down and that music comes up, it really is like anything is possible . . . anything could happen, from miracles to redemption . . . and I don’t care how stupid any of it sounds, but if there’s such a thing as the Force . . . I want to believe in it.   

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