My husband had a rough childhood. The late, great Leonard Nimoy, in his role as Spock, was one of the lights that sparked Scott’s imagination and gave him hope. Within the couple of weeks following Nimoy’s passing, Scott wrote the following. It’s a lovely tribute to someone who meant so much to so many.
“What are you drawing?” she asked sweetly from behind me, trying to get her nine-year-old chin over my gangly shoulders.
I had endless juvenile interpretations of my daily escape, even coming from a pre-VHS memory recorded from a small, fuzzy TV on the Saturday night re-runs the week before, when everything still had so many possibilities. Whether it was drawing the Enterprise a hundred times, writing poems I was ashamed for anyone to see, or penciling “graphite visions” of James T. and Spock doing everything from watering plants on a dusty moon to saving the cosmos. On most school or church days from age seven to age ten, at some point I was dreaming, drawing, or writing something having to do with Star Trek. But this day was different from the rest, as I was going to see my first Star Trek movie that night. But my visions were only for me, so when someone—especially a girl—came up beside me, my shoulder would slowly rise up, and my hand would slowly cover the page. Of course I could have covered them quickly, but a part of me was hoping when that lovely girl named Heidi saw a glimpse she would beg for more and join in the fantasy world. But in that little town of Hohenwald, Tennessee at the dawn of the big 80’s, there wasn’t an elementary sci-fi geek girl to be found (or another boy, for that matter).
It’s been a week since the passing of Leonard Nimoy. Initially, I didn’t want to think about it and certainly couldn’t post about it. The night after his passing I went to Hastings and rented “Star Trek II: The Director’s Cut”, a version of the original movie I hadn’t seen before. I first saw the shorter original as a nine year old and rented this as a tribute of sorts to his passing, but for some reason I couldn’t watch it that night. Every time I looked at Facebook that day I saw the various “live long and prosper” posts, which faded within 24 hours or so after his passing. But for me I knew it meant something more, something simple, but something I didn’t want to face.
I finally watched the movie last night and knew that those days of dreaming about the endless possibilities coming from one little three-season television show were over for me. As the credits rolled, I actually listened to every bit of the wonderful soundtrack that James Horner composed, and wondered to myself when the last time was that I sat and listened, not only to the very end of a movie, but to the subtleties that life puts before us. “What was I really like then, and what was so different about me?” I wondered…
That Sunday in June of 1982 was the first time I was going to see a movie by myself. I had waited months for Star Trek II, even though I had never seen “The Original Motion Picture”, though it may have been wise that I put it off until adulthood. I was so excited, as a few weeks before the debut, I got to see the 1967 episode rerun “Space Seed”, which featured a young Captain Kirk finding an advanced, genetically-engineered colony cryo-frozen and lost in space. The leader, “Kahn”, tried to take over Kirk’s ship and tortured him in the process. With the help of his first officer Spock, he eventually defeated Kahn’s plans, and even helped Kahn and his followers colonize a lovely uninhabited planet. “How could an ending like this be made into a movie with Kahn being angry with Captain Kirk?” I’d pondered over the last few weeks. All the information I had to work with was from the short television advertisement of the time and that single episode, but I got out my notes making many scenarios about what may happen centuries into the future during Mrs. Allen’s biblical lessons from eons past.
The end of the church class came, and Mrs. Allen called me to her. Although my behavior was exemplary for the typical nine-year-old boy, I hid my graphite dreams and went to her, prepared for a scolding on how I needed to listen to Jesus, not draw pictures during her lesson. “Scott, how’s your dad, how’s Gary doing?” she said in an uncomfortable tone. I said the same thing I always said, “He’s doing okay, Grandma’s taking care of him during the day.” “I hope the doctors are helping him,” she said. I walked away and thought about my dad, not understanding exactly what his brain tumor meant, and certainly not knowing his life would end the next June. As usual, I felt guilty, not knowing exactly why, and almost told Mom I didn’t want to go see the movie because of that guilt. How could I go see a movie when Dad couldn’t? But there I was a few hours later, sitting in the movie theatre on a Sunday afternoon, and for the first time in months, not taking a two-hour nap after a huge post-worship feast. I knew Mr. Spock would not find napping during movie time logical, and Captain Kirk might just seal my fate by putting a security officer’s red shirt on me if he knew I was sleeping.
I sat there by myself, waiting in excitement, and I thought of my first movie experience: “Star Wars” in 1977. It absolutely blew me away from the moment the first note played after “Far, far, away”. Although Star Wars had inspired several years of masterful Lego-ship making and crafting light sabers out of whatever I could get my hands on, it didn’t make me dream all day like Star Trek did. Kirk and Spock’s teamwork was always something to build a new fantasy upon. Our glorious captain was always ready to jump the gun without thinking, but always had his logical sidekick to slow him down enough to see what was around him; his friend, there to make him ponder the possibilities. Fascinating.
Of course I had to make sure I had covered all the bases I could think of before the movie started, so I pulled out one of those pieces of paper that I slowly hid from Heidi, the one with many of the plot theories a nine-year-old could imagine. I wanted to compare notes as the movie progressed, not knowing that as soon as that opening title came up, accompanied by the climax of Horner’s opening theme, I would have goose bumps from head to toe, and those pages would have to wait until after the last credits.
A small mind full of possibilities didn’t know how to react to a big-screen world that was actually fulfilling his fantasies. I just watched and listened, taking it all in but totally forgetting about life outside of Kahn’s wrath. The movie progressed, and our captain lost what he realized was his best friend, Spock, to radiation—a word I had heard many times over the last few months in relation to my father’s brain tumor. I saw Spock, in his dying moments, leaning against that shield telling his captain that he was also his friend. I saw it take his life away on screen, leaving me with tears running down my face. I sneakily looked around to make sure no one saw me crying, and for the first time knew I was going to lose my father. I have almost no memory of the next year until after my father died, and now I think I know why.
Last night as I watched the opening credits roll with my lovely, sleepy sidekick, Lacey, lying by my side with her head on my chest, I began to feel those same chill bumps I felt that day in 1982. A little of the nine-year-old was still there, halfway trying to hide my tears from Lacey that started as soon as Leonard Nimoy’s name came to the screen. But at least I knew that in this town of Conway, Arkansas in the early 21st century, there is one sci-fi geek girl that won’t mind a few “Spock tears”.
An old country doctor named McCoy, dreamily peering out into space, looked past the “green blooded, in-human” part and said of his lost friend, “He’s really not dead, as long as we remember him.” That not only goes for the Vulcan sidekick that helped me get through some rough years, but also for the father that reminded me so much of him. Mr. Nimoy, you once said “There are always possibilities.” I think you may have re-opened the doorway into the endless possibilities that existed all those years ago. Now, instead of slowly covering the pages, I will share with all who wish to dream with me.