Being There as a Father in the October Sky

April 13, 2011 — 14 Comments

There is a handful of movies that no matter where I am in life they just inspire me.  And I learn something new from them every time I watch them.  I think of movies I’ve written about before like Dead Poet’s Society, A River Runs Through It, Big Fish.  In addition, I would also put Chariots of Fire and Finding Forrester in that category.  There are so many more, but the latest reminder on that list is the movie, October Sky. Watch the quick trailer below to get the overview but when I first watched the movie in theater was 1999 and I took the inspiration like anyone one; a young individual trying to go after their dreams.  In this case it is Homer, the main character, and he has the aspiration to be a rocket scientist while growing up in a coal mining community. Oil and vinegar, right?

So what does one learn now?

I focused on the breakdown and re-engagement of the father.  The father-son relationship struggle is the most powerful theme that resonates with me more than ever now because I am a father.  I don’t have a son but I have two daughters and and I still take away the lessons of needing good communication for a healthy family relationship.

I took the time to do some quick research and found that roughly 25 million children grow up without a father in the United States alone.  Thank God men are leading the way to combat this statistic.  There are people I admire like Donald Miller who started up a group to help kids without fathers called The Mentoring Project.  There also amazing organizations like All Pro Dad that exist to encourage dads.

The week after I graduated from high school, I embarked on a Colorado hiking trip with a group of friends and a few of our dads.  I remember asking my dad months before if he could join us.  He was then General Manager of a big company and with it came a the weight of incredible stress.  I knew it would be highly unlikely for him to join but I still hoped he would.  When he told me a week or so later that he was was in, I was ecstatic.  The experience was unforgettable and we talk about it till this day.  Father’s Day took place during our week long hike which made it even more special.  We brought home scars, lost some toenails, even lost some pounds, but ultimately brought home life long memories.

A few months later my father lost his job.  During that trip I learned his boss had a issue with not being able to reach him.  This was before cell phones could get decent reach and apparently it was too much for his boss.  Dad never let me know much about those pressures but it happened.  He lost his job.  There was good in it, though.  It served as a catalyst to push him back into the career he loved, banking.  He served small businesses and remained committed to rebuilding communities in St. Louis until retiring a few years ago.

But he still took me on that adventure.  He understood the risk and most importantly, he was there.

In October Sky, the final scene brings tears to my eyes every time.  The main character, Homer is prepared to launch his final rocket as a thank you to those who helped him.  As Homer spoke to the crowd that assembled, he thanked his friends, his math teacher, his mother, etc.  But last Homer dedicated it to his father who throughout his passion of launching rockets was never there. But this time he was.  His father was there. Alas, his father engaged and the rocket took off.  The scene ends with the father’s arm embracing his son as they watched the rocket soar into the sky.

For my father and I, our rocket took off.  We went hiking and looked up together and saw beautiful mountains.  God’s country.

You may not have a father in your life.  I can understand that the pain may be deep.  But you have the opportunity to build upon it and be the parent you’re meant to be. If you don’t want to be a parent you can still help those who need one.

We can do it together and start by being there.

14 responses to Being There as a Father in the October Sky

  1. 

    What a cool story David. Your dad sounds really cool. One of my favorite parts about speaking at men’s bootcamps, is seeing some of the guys return with either their sons or dads. To see many of them talking and sharing with each other often for the first time, is priceless. It is one of most sacred things, seeing that relationship restored. My dad and and I have a special relationship and I get to see him love and cherish my two kids in a way I never saw him interact until now.

    • 

      Okay I definitely need to join you at the next boot camp. I’ve always wanted to go. I’ve been through Wild at Heart about 3 times in different groups. It never gets old. You can see why I like making the connection in movies so much. My dad is amazing and he would probably say that he had to learn through time. We went through the early stuff of him wanting me to play football. I tried and hated it but he came to understand me more in the process and embraced golf as I did. Ultimately there is a theme in the bible and in life about restoration. No matter where we are in life, it is so important to embrace humility and come before Christ as men. God transforms us in that process.

      • 

        David, we have our next one in two weeks. I like you am so glad I am learning all this as I raise my own kiddos. Even the pacifier story was way more about the heart than anything. Dad has wanted to make it out to camp for a while. In fact I just need to invite him again!

      • 

        Never give up inviting. Seriously. How old is your dad? Does he live close?

      • 

        He is 75. Good point. I’ll continue to invite.

      • 

        That is another takeaway. God has timing in all of this. It involves work in relationships, especially this close. But this is how God breaks us down to build us up again. It will all make sense in Heaven, right?

  2. 

    What an inspiring way to start my day. Thanks Dave.

  3. 

    Great reminder to be there for our children! Our children are far more important than our jobs and need to have fathers who are engaged. Thanks for sharing your story David!

    • 

      Appreciate you taking a look, Gerry! It is a reminder indeed. I’m humbled by having a 1 and 3 year old and recognizing that in the next 20-30 years what can happen. I need to “be” there engaging with them. My Young Life leader back in the day always reminded me in relationships, especially family to do that.

      Hope we can meet in person someday.

  4. 

    Definite cud to chew on for a while. I still struggle so much with the shallow relationship I had with my dad and the many ways I have been a failure as a dad myself. I know it’s not too late for relationships to be redeemed, but this “in between” space seems so long and is so frustrating. Thanks for you intentional and coincidental encouragement. Working to write a better story….

    • 

      Well one thing about October Sky is that it shows a very bad father-son relationship. And honestly I’m sure in real life Homer Hickem and his father were not fully healed at all. But an “understanding of each other” was probably laid for the foundation. My father and I did not have a the optimal relationship either but we learned each other and at least I think we became a better father and better son. For you and your dad, you’re right. It’s never too late. But you have 50+ years of frustration to deal with and that is reality. But again there is no wall God can’t break down but it may not be in a complete way. Take small steps. Pray. You’re not alone.

  5. 

    I just learned how they came up with the name “October Sky.”
    Here you go from IMDB.
    “October Sky” is an anagram of “Rocket Boys”, the title of the book on which the movie is based. It is also used in a period radio broadcast describing Sputnik as it crossed the “October sky”. Homer Hickam stated that women over 30 would not go to see a movie titled “Rocket Boys”,so Universal Pictures changed the title to be more inviting to a wider audience. The book was later re-released with the name October Sky in order to capitalize on interest in the movie. The movie takes place in the late 1950’s after Sputnik is launched. [wikipedia]

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Top 10 Most Inspirational Movies « Scenes of Life - February 26, 2013

    […] wrote earlier about this movie in my blog post, Being There as a Father in the October Sky. It is probably one of the best American stories that depicted the 1950s and it shows me how I […]

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