“Everyone has trials and tribulations…Everybody no matter how rich or poor they are. Everyone gets a burden here an there..I got a bunch of them all at once. you bitch about having no shoes until you see a man with no feet. Be nice to someone and it makes you feel nicer. it’s the only way you can deal…..” a senior citizen greeter of soldiers in Bangor Maine in a scene from The Way we Get By.
I am in a constant state of multitasking and often rent something on itunes to half-watch while i’m sorting through the black hole of papers that is otherwise known as my desk. Lately i’ve been happily forced by my 10 year old twins to watch Miranda and Modern Family. Occasionally I stop what i’m doing because Miranda has made a grand entrance by falling on her face and my kids need to re-enact it for me. Thrice.
But last night i put on The Way We Get By–a documentary about three older americans that greet returning troops at a small airport in Bangor Maine. I hadn’t heard about it–I just happened to notice the great rating on Rotten Tomatoes as i was browsing. (I’m very pleased Itunes is now automatically giving Rotten Tomato ratings so I don’t have to switch back and forth between the two). Unexpectedly the movie was so moving, it wasn’t possible to multitask while watching this. It left me breathless and completely awed.
By simply following three senior citizens who live solitary lives (each facing various life issues, infirmities and ailments) and seek fulfillment by greeting returning soldiers at their local Maine airport–the documentary portrays every human emotion with a power that is rarely conveyed on film.
Maybe it is because i had just said farewell to my beloved dog who went to stay with a friend in the country for the summer, but by the time the film reached the scene where one older gentleman had to collect the remains and bowl of his sole companion, Flanagan, I was completely beside myself. Gasping!
That’s what you get for 16 years??? ….No…that’s not all you get for 16 years. You get all that tail-wagging and chasing the ball. Sometimes he could sit beside you and if you had something you were fretting about he seemed to absorb it for you and you would get rid of it. isn’t that silly? just the presence of him seemed to absorb it……
These “greeters” despite their age, head out often in the middle of the night subjected to Maine’s frigid winter air (which you can’t imagine until you’ve felt it), because of the deep meaning their contact with the soldiers means for both the troops and themselves. One Christmas Eve a greeter, who now has been associated with greeting more than 900,000 troops says:
Alot of times you go out when everything hurts. I go out when my back is bothering me, my legs are bothering me, my shoulders hurt. But you go out and you get around people. You talk to the soldiers. you kind of forget.
The three people captured on film might forget their pain, but I don’t think any viewer of the film will forget it any time soon.