In the backyard, an eight-year-old rides on top of his dad’s shoulders. His dad bites into an apple, watching as his plays with his toy rocket. He clutches his right arm and collapses onto the porch. The boy runs over to him, screaming “NO!” His mom races into the door.
At the funeral, the boy sheds a tear as he says goodbye to his dad. His family and their friends watch in the pews. He cries as he looks at his toy rocket. His mom stays with him in the kitchen but he says nothing. At school, he looks at the floor and then gazes at the entrance. He attends a fair and as he rides, he has no expression as he watches the field swirl around him.
Inside the garage, he starts to sketch and plays with his dad’s glasses. His mom knocks on the door. He asks his teachers for help. The librarian guides him to the correct section and he reads for hours. An older man provides him with the material. With his wagon, he hauls it back home. His mom, hands across her chest, listens as her son works, respecting the “Keep Out” sign he posted.
He continues to build his rocket. However, the older man questions him and the boy insists he can do it. The older man goes to the boy’s home. The man explains that his son wants to visit his father. She pounds on the door and finds that he’s gone. As she searches for clues, she sees a postcard written by her husband, saying “you will always find me in the stars.” She bursts into tears.
At school, she passes out flyers for his flight. She hugs him and zips him up in his suit. She walks him to his rocket. She tells him she loves him and bites her lip to stop from herself from crying. The adults hold flashlights, guiding the way for him. He takes off.
At the church, his mother stands by a casket.
Her husband was the heart that held their family together. Without him, neither she nor her son could connect. She tried to be strong. She wanted to be the rock her son needed. However, she found herself sobbing as she cooked dinner and forgetting her son’s school functions.
Her son, though, didn’t recover. He withdrew in class, not wanting to participate and locking himself in the garage after school. She often left food by the door. Some nights, the dish had some crumbs with some vegetables left over. But there were nights the plate was untouched.
An older man reached out to her, concerned about her son. “He misses his father and wants to be with him again, ” he told her. Her heart broke for her son. She asked her son about the rocket. He said it was to visit Dad and asked if she had anything she wanted to tell him before he left.
Her son worked so hard on the rocket. As he prepared to go, she told him she loved him and was proud. Then, the rocket crashed. His teachers said that it wasn’t her fault. The adults said the measurements were correct and they even helped him test it. While she stands over his casket, she knows he is at peace now. He is somewhere with his father, traveling the path from constellation to constellation.
Director: Phillip R. Lopez Year: 2017
Pam Avoledo’s love of pop culture began in 1999 with the message boards dedicated to shows on the CW (then WB). She graduated from Oakland University in 2006 with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism.
When she is not debating whether Dawson should’ve ended up with Joey, she looks at cute dog memes on social media.