Experiencing Loss via Star Wars

Scott Caldwell Shoreline, Washington

I first met my best friend Scott some 3 decades ago when I was 15 years old. We shared several mutual interests and had the innate ability to relentlessly joke at one another’s expense in some of the cruelest ways without ever taking said jokes seriously in the slightest. Scott was my best friend from the first day that I met him. Scott was that rare person that I could simply sit and occupy time with. Hanging out and doing nothing productive for hours, all while discussing life’s more trivial questions, bong in one hand, beer in the other.

One of the recurring discussions of our friendship was around the topic of Star Wars. Scott was a massive fan of the series. He dove headfirst into the lore, bought all of the spin-off novels, and even ventured out into other sci-fi series during the great Star Wars drought in the late ’80s and early 90s. He was hooked. Scott was also a chronic alcoholic and pothead. I repeatedly blamed his addictions on George Lucas’s inability to keep the Star Wars franchise rolling during Scott’s formative years.

For my part, I was a fan, sure. I saw the first trilogy first-run in theaters starting at age 6. By the time Return of the Jedi was released in 1983, I felt a bit too cool for Star Wars. I dismissed the Star Wars series as “kiddie trash” after the third film. After all, I graduated to R-rated movies a year earlier after seeing Conan the Barbarian with my dad.

Nothing makes you “too cool” quite like seeing Conan the Barbarian with your dad.

All of that was before I’d met Scott. Still, for the duration of our friendship, there wasn’t a single conversation that didn’t reference Star Wars at one point or another. Quotes were frequent, if a little predictable after a time. I fondly remember that whenever he and I were driving anywhere and came across a tunnel, Scott would exclaim, “Red 5, I’m going in” with an almost idiot child-like glee. It still makes me laugh every time I drive my vehicle into a tunnel to this day.

Scott and I were still best friends when the prequel trilogy came around. I like those films well enough; they’re entertaining if I put myself in my 9-year old shoes for a few hours. Scott hated them. The proud and nerdy man-child within him couldn’t get past some of the choices Lucas made for those films. I tried my best to convince him that maybe he was simply too old to “get it” anymore, but he would have none of it. Star Wars had gone from mindless entertainment to something Scott tirelessly took to the Internet to complain about. We still discussed the films after that, but he’d found new outlets for his fanboy rage in Reddit, Fandom, etc.
Our real-life Star Wars conversations dwindled a bit after that, at least up until more recently when this latest trilogy made its debut. With the release of each new film, from The Force Awakens to The Last Jedi, I received multiple phone calls from Scott, ranting or raving about the “New Star Wars Universe.” We shared new theories, complained about new characters, plot holes, and story arcs, and then went about our adult lives. At the same time, I occasionally managed to slip “shut up nerd” into the conversation when possible. Scott remained as undeterred by my nerd-bashing as ever, though. He took it in stride and then following up with what felt like a far-too-detailed hypothesis around the symbolism of Darth Vader’s mangled helmet in Kylo Ren’s bedroom.

Scott still smoked a LOT of weed.

As Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker debuted last week, I found myself having no interest in seeing it. For the first time in my life, I have not braved the theater for a Star Wars film and likely won’t. I’m not sure that I will ever see it at all.

Scott died suddenly a few weeks after The Last Jedi came out. The film was one of the final things that he ever spoke to me about. While Scott loved it, I was mostly indifferent to it. I listened as he went over all the things that it did right by the original trilogy. Star Wars was saved! It would surely only get better from here! He couldn’t wait for the 9th and final film in the Skywalker saga. How would it all end? Was Luke really gone forever? Where does it go from here?

For Scott, Star Wars ended after The Last Jedi. The thing he loved most continued on without him.

For me, Star Wars ended when my best friend passed away.

Seeing any form of social media this past week has been painful for me. Not because of spoilers or an overabundance of Star Wars references, but because the nerd rage surrounding the film hits a little too close to home for me. It’s like watching a million people have a watered-down, politically correct, and public conversation that I’ve already had a thousand times with my best friend. And it absolutely kills me that I’ll never have that conversation again.

Epilogue

I tried to watch The Mandalorian on Disney+ and only managed to make it through about two episodes – both later in the season, episodes 6 and 8, I think. Scott would have loved this show. I’ve no doubt.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *