This is only the second time that I've seen the film, having somehow missed the Titanic craze when I was a teenager. It's not a bad film by any stretch; it brings great humanity to a larger-than-life tragedy. It covers women's rights, the destructive class system, the folly of human hubris, and the call to live a different life from what society has laid out for you. Not to mention that little love story involving Kate and Leo!
But what has struck me the most, both times I've seen the movie, is the character of the elderly Rose. Perhaps it's my own close relationship to my grandmother that makes me gravitate to her, but I think it is incredibly refreshing and fascinating to see a representation of an elderly woman who is vibrant and willing to share the story that shaped her life.
Too often when we relate to our mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, we see them as we always have - in their roles as caregivers. We have a difficult time seeing behind the wrinkles to the young men and women they once were. Men and women with stories, secrets and adventures.
I was lucky to always have a close relationship with my maternal grandmother. I was raised listening to her stories of growing up in Depression-era Vancouver, Canada. I was able to imagine my grandmother and my great aunts wandering the streets, stealing apples from fruit trees when they were hungry, and walking to Stanley Park with their pot of stew on a Sunday afternoon. The twinkle in my grandmother's eye when she talked of the boys she "went with" before my grandfather was in the picture made smile, and more importantly made me realize that she too was once a young woman, intoxicated with life.
I also listened to the stories of my great uncle, my grandmother's brother who was killed in World War II. I read his letters, sent during training in England and later from Italy, where he died. I had a picture of him on my desk. I not only learned a lot about him, but I also learned a lot about my grandmother. I couldn't imagine how difficult it must have been for her to lose him to war.
It's well known that in traditional societies elders are respected and their wisdom is valued. It's also clear that we've lost this, to a great degree, in western society. But what really scares me is that we're also missing out on their stories - and we're risking losing them forever. We flock to the theatres to see the human side of epic historic events and yet we forget that these stories are living in our own homes, if we only thought to ask.